Next Friday ends the first semester for me at Ames High as the Tech Integrationist. It definitely has been an interesting semester and there are a lot of differences between being a classroom teacher and more of a technology coach.
First let me state that I am accustomed to change and my teaching career has been full of changes. I changed my classes and students 3 weeks into my first year as a teacher, a teacher had to retire early, and I have taught 12 different classes in 3 districts with 6 different principals. I am used to change and expect it, if things stay the same for tool long it makes me feel like something is wrong.
The biggest change has to be that I start my day in an office or a meeting and not with students. It is hard not to miss the classes with students and all of the joys that one gets from seeing students understanding and learning. Most of my work now does not bring me always into contact with students so it becomes harder to always see the student effects of my work. I know I am affecting teachers and I hope that is affecting the students but that is not always evident. That type of feedback was important to help me modify what I did day to day, now I have to look for other types of feedback to make sure that I am being effective and that I change what is not working.
This was also the first semester for my school as a 1:1 school. We had a bit of technical issues in the first couple of months with our wireless system that made it difficult for many classes to make use of the computers. We opted to not use Microsoft Office and instead focus on Google Apps and LibreOffice. There is a learning curve to leaving Office behind but not as big as it once was. Many businesses and colleges are leaving Office and moving either towards Google Apps or some open source solution. We had a noticeable lack of technology available to everyone before and now we have laptops with each student. This has created many opportunities for trying new things and learning about how to better change instruction to meet the needs of our students as they are today and not as they were in the past.
I have met with many teachers to go over lesson ideas and to help them learn how to either use a new tool or how to change activities and lessons to better meet the needs of the students. I have created a website that has many tech tips and ideas to share with teachers and others. I even created a separate page specifically for our students based on the needs expressed to me by teachers or by students themselves. I get to spend some time in classrooms, not as much as I would like but I see that happening more as we go into the second semester. I have helped some teachers get onto Twitter and experience the benefits of being connected while showing others the same benefits and hoping they will take advantage of that in the future. I have met with our core departments to discuss evaluating their own tech use and how we can change in the future.
There are many challenges that we have yet to overcome but we are on a positive path. The success of our 1:1 is not dependent on one person but I know that I will hopefully play a big role. I have had experience at my previous school before and during the time it was a 1:1 and I hope to use what we learned from that experience to make the experience at Ames a better one. There is a lot we can learn from other districts but we have to remember that each district is different and we can not just copy what some other district did to become successful. We have to modify and adjust each idea and technique to best fit our students and our teachers. We will have success and we will have failures, but those failures are useful in that we can learn from them and improve.
I was asked the other day about what I envision Ames being like in a couple of years and I had no answer because I tend to focus on the present with only a small glance towards the future. I have never been one to have a master plan that stretches years into the future, at least a detailed one. I have hopes and wants for where we can go in the next few years but I am focused on the 2nd semester and making sure we have a positive momentum going into next year. The joy of teaching is that you never really know what the next day will bring but you prepare the best you can and enjoy the moments when they happen.