Officially, my job title is technology integration specialist. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? I help people integrate technology into their teaching! My job is a little messier than the title suggests. A typical day may include any one or many of the following:
- answering emails from teachers, students, and parents.
- purchasing and pushing out apps to 2000+ devices.
- locating lost iPads.
- explaining the benefits of using ____ app or service.
- troubleshooting problems with iPads.
- defending the use of technology in the classroom.
- attending meetings about technology.
- visiting other schools to look at their technology.
- working on Smart Boards, Macs, and PCs.
- helping to manage the web filter and Google Admin. console.
- visiting classrooms.
- recording tutorial videos.
- updating Google Classrooms to share information with teachers and students.
- planning professional development activities, both online and inperson.
- talking to sales reps.
I don’t list all of these to have people feel sorry for me, only to show that there is no real consistency to what I do everyday. There is not one of those jobs on the list that I hate doing, but there are those that I prefer more than others. I should mention at this point that I truly love my job. Sure there are times that I feel (frustrated, stressed, overworked, under-appreciated), but hey…that’s what it means to be involved in education!
Though to be completely honest, I want my position to focus more on discussions of how to best teach kids and less on most of the jobs listed above. If those discussions involve technology…great, but right now the focus seems to be more on the technology and less on the pedagogy behind it. As a result, those who are uncomfortable with technology see me as someone who wants to add something to their already full plate. Some of this is my fault, some of it is the fault of teachers and administrators, and some of it is no one’s fault. Schools are messy places filled with people who are pressed for time! Thankfully, there are those teachers and administrators in my district who I can count on to recharge my batteries when I need it. These are the people with whom I can always count on having a good discussion about growth mindset, Makerspaces, Breakout EDU, Twitter, etc. I’ll share two recent examples that exemplify why I do what I do everyday!
One of the hardest parts of leaving the classroom was leaving a co-teaching situation that I had been a part of for twelve years. Courtney () and I had MANY conversations about how to best teach kids, not just how fast we could move through content. It seemed that we were never satisfied with how we were doing things. Moving to this new position meant that I wasn’t going to be able to have those day to day conversations. A couple of months ago, after having read a couple of books about standards based grading, I asked her if she would be interested in trying this approach with her 12th grade expository writing class. We sat down and talked through what this change might look like and, in the end, she decided to give it a try this semester. She also became excited about the idea of Breakout EDU and has worked on incorporating this into her classroom as well as helping me present it to the faculty as a whole. Courtney has created a classroom environment where students are experiencing their teacher being excited to try new things! Making big changes in how she teaches content seems to have renewed her excitement for teaching and in doing what is best for kids. To hear her say, “I can’t wait to see what the kids do with this” is why I do what I do everyday!
The other example relates to the conversations with the junior high principal Lee Hoffman () about the possibility of a Makerspace and/or STEM lab in his school. These conversations, which have also included visits to other schools, have generated a lot of discussion about pedagogy that have been deep and focused on what is best for kids. Should the 7th grade experience be more “scripted” than the 8th grade? What modules do we want/need to include? How much should it focus on future career possibilities? What kind of teacher is needed for this type of experience? Discussions like these get me geeked up and excited about the possibilities! To see this principal talk about how awesome this type of change is going to be is why I do what I do everyday!
These are not the only two examples of conversations that I have had with teachers and administrators, but they don’t happen as often as I would like. From here on out, my goal is to make these types of discussions the rule rather than the exception. I am not naive enough to think that all of those aspects of my job listed above will disappear, but we have to create opportunities for deeper pedagogical discussions among teachers, administrators, students, and parents. This is how we will make schools better. This is why I decided to leave the classroom after 23 years. This is why I do what I do.