We are nearly done with the current school year and for the first time I do not have a countdown to summer. Being a tech integrationist this year is definitely different than being a classroom teacher for the most part, yet there are still many things that were the same. I am still trying to help others learn, I still run into reluctant learners and I still need to find ways to help those rock stars that seem to go well beyond what everyone else is doing. There is a huge difference between working with students and working with adults, both have their difficulties but both are rewarding. My main hope for this year was that I would have a larger impact than on just my classroom, that I would be able to help so many other classrooms adjust to this new world where technology is so readily available.
I had an understanding of the challenges we would face heading into our first year as a 1:1 high school, since I had already been at a school for their first 3 years as a 1:1. The unknown concerned the challenges I would face when working with teachers and helping to set up an atmosphere of learning that allowed the laptops to be used to accentuate the learning that was already taking place while at the same time allowing for new and better learning to happen. We were already doing some great things but the quick access to technology can make things so much better if used properly. While some people still see the devices as only a source of distraction, there are many who have taken the necessary steps to get started down the road to using technology to help the learning taking place.
The professional development that teachers get during the early stages of a 1:1 can play a vital role in the impact that the changes have on the classroom. I was very excited to help lead some professional development and implement some of my own ideas and plans in order to help teachers. In the last couple of years as a teacher I had tried moving away from a teacher centric classroom and did more work with flipped learning as well as any form of student centric learning. I wanted to carry those ideals with me into my new role and help design professional development that gave more choice to teachers while at the same time allowing teachers to have more control over what they were learning. I have experienced too many times, in my own career as a teacher, cases of professional development that had nothing to do with my own classroom or the learning of my students. I wanted to help avoid those pitfalls and try to work on developing ways to help teachers while at the same time respecting them as professionals.
Some of the things we tried this year include Tech Time 1.0 (before or after school opportunities for teachers to learn about a new method or tool), AHS Tech Integration site (Google site with tech tips and resources for teachers), Tech Time 2.0 (Google Hangout with a teacher or two to have them share out what they are doing in their classroom and then give a tech tip or strategy to try), and a sharing/collaboration site. We also had the standard full or half day of professional development tied to technology integration as well as the opportunity for teachers to work with me individually. There are some things that worked well and others that need work, but that is part of the learning process and something that we need to model to students that failure is a step on our learning path.
Of course one of the most enjoyable parts of my year involved all of the instances where I was back in the classroom working with students. As I worked with some teachers, helping them to plan and develop lessons, I would be in the classroom helping to lead or assist the new learning by the students. A common concern for most tech integrationists that I have talked to, involves the fear of missing the classroom. I was happy with the amount of time that I spent working with students and teachers in their classrooms, but this is something that I want to increase next year.
The big reason why I made the career change from classroom teacher to tech integrationist was so that I could have a larger impact on the school. While I enjoyed working with my students, being able to work with so many other teachers gives me the ability to have a larger impact on the changes taking place in our classrooms. As technology becomes more available and usable, the learning environments need to match what is happening outside of schools. Technology allows us to do so much more today that we have to make sure we are not teaching in a way that prepares our students for a world that they will not enter. If our classrooms still look and behave like they did 20 years ago, then we are missing a lot of great learning opportunities for our students. We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to create the most effective learning environment possible for our students and technology plays a huge role in that.