Where I’ve Been and Why I’m Leaving

Ok, the cat is out of the bag.  I am leaving.  So for once, I will blog about something pretty personal:  where I’ve been and why I’m leaving. This post is actually prompted by an email inquiry I received today from someone who had seen the job posting and wanted to know what I do exactly.  One of the last lines of the email asked why I was leaving.  It was a good question and gave me pause to reflect.

Before I actually give my reasons for leaving, I will describe what my role has been as an instructional technology facilitator at MCMS.  (To read what the job description is according to the IMPACT model, click here.)  I have tried to follow the IMPACT model as closely as possible but recognize that there was a lot of room for improvement.  I had hoped to be in this job for many years.  I saw so many possibilities.  I still do.

Where I’ve Been:

  • I was a French teacher at ECHS for 10 and a half years.  During those 10 and a half years I fell in love with technology and troubleshooting.  I watched the Internet change our whole world and I found that I loved teaching others how to use technology.  When I received a phone call 3 years ago this coming July to interview for a technology facilitator position, I jumped at the opportunity because this was my dream job.  When I was accepted, I was elated.
  • My first year was a whirlwind.  I had so much to learn, not necessarily about how to integrate technology into the classroom but how to troubleshoot and manage all these computers at our school.  Without a technology assistant, technology facilitators have to do quite a bit of troubleshooting.  This school had been without a technology facilitator for three years so they were starved for someone in my position to point them in the right direction.  I loved my job.  I tried to focus my attention on training the staff so I did a technology camp for teachers that first summer.
  • I was much more comfortable during my second year.  I was ready to really lay some groundwork with the staff on technology integration.  I was introduced to the world of Web 2.0 and have been hooked ever since.  I created my own personal learning network which has helped me learn so much using iGoogle and Google Reader.  Some of favorite Web 2.0 tools are iGoogle, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Skype, Second Life, del.icio.us (although Diigo is quickly eclipsing my love of del.icio.us), Picasa, and Flickr.  I use many others but these have been invaluable to me.  I wanted to focus my attention from the teachers just a little to equipping students so I taught a technology camp for students during that summer.
  • This third year has been a little different.  I have been in the classrooms much more, co-teaching with teachers.  I was also selected to help be a core trainer for NCWise which our county was converting to this year.  I think a lot more teachers are using technology this year than they have in my previous two years here and I am glad to say that they are putting more and more of that technology in the students’ hands.  I finish this third year happy to say the hardware is in place (3 wireless labs, two desktop labs, data projectors in almost every classroom, 2 interactive slates per team, 2 wireless presenter mice per team, 1 document camera per team, 3 digital video cameras for the school, and two student response systems for the school).  Ok, we’re not completely at my dream classroom but we’re on our way.  I don’t pretend to take credit for all the good changes I’ve seen in our school these 3 years.  We have many shining technology teaching stars, a tech savvy media coordinator, a supportive tech support team, and a fireball principal who understands the important role that technology plays in the future of education.  I was fortunate to get to ride this wave with such great folks.  I know this school will go far after I leave.

Why I’m Leaving:

  • My mother became very ill and was admitted to the hospital on February 14.  Unfortunately she is still in rehabilitative care but is making progress.  I plan on spending my summer and fall before leaving for the Netherlands taking care of her and helping my family.  Leaving this job will make me more available to my family.
  • I visited friends in Amsterdam, Netherlands over Christmas break and my thoughts began drifting to my old dream of living in Europe.  An apartment became available not too far from the city center and I just can’t let this opportunity slip away without grabbing the bull by the horns.  So, I’m going for my dream of living in Europe.  Of course, that means I am now looking for a job in Amsterdam.  Does anyone know if they need technology facilitatators/coordinators there?  🙂

So the plan is to move to the Netherlands once my mom is back on her feet.  I will be keeping this blog however and it is my sincere hope that I can continue to work in technology education even if I am in a different country.

Needless to say, I will miss my colleagues and friends that I have had here in Carteret County.  It’s not easy to say good bye to 13 and a half years of one’s life but these have been good years, learning years.  I’m sure I will have much more to reflect on in the next few months so stay posted!

Micro Interactions: Life in the Web 2.0 World

(To view the slide show on Slideshare so you can see it full screen [the words are hard to read at such a small size and the Slideshare icon was not working for me in Firefox], click here.)

I like to subscribe to blogs that are outside the education world, especially if they present ideas that are fresh. This slideshow comes from David Armano at the Logic + Emotion blog. I not only enjoy his outlook but the graphics are a breath of fresh air as well.

After viewing the slideshow, I have to wonder why schools haven’t hopped on the Web 2.0 wave with their websites like the business world is beginning to do. While David’s slideshow targets the business community, his insights can certainly be applied to this generation of students as well.

I look at our own school’s website and it is pretty static. I introduced a school blog but it is separate from the school’s site. I really have a vision of our school’s website doing so much more. In my vision, I will refer to students, parents, and teachers (basically the entire community who would use the site as “stakeholders.” My vision:

  • It is a blog so stakeholders can comment on anything and everything on the site.
  • It has useful widgets that the stakeholders can choose and customize like an iGoogle page.
  • It has surveys and survey results right on the page.
  • Content is driven not only by the school but also by its stakeholders.
  • Students and teachers could have their own pages like Facebook or Myspace. (Of course, they would have to be some safety measures built in there too.)

Ok, maybe that’s not so revolutionary but I think it’s a start. We need to adapt to the changing world we’re in. I too often hear that students don’t really use our school’s website and I just have to think that perhaps it’s because it is so static. The information is mostly unidirectional: SCHOOL ===> STAKEHOLDERS. I would rather it be multi directional. I’m going to be thinking about this…

Impacts of NCWise and Online Gradebooks

I don’t know about most schools but we are in a quandary as to which online gradebook we will use.  Here are our concerns:

  1. At this time there is no parent module available in NCWise that allows parents to log in and monitor their child’s progress. Separate online gradebooks do allow this and it seems to be working pretty well at other schools.  These other schools intend to put final grades into NCWise or enter grades twice.  NCWise does allow the teacher to email progress reports to parents.
  2. If teachers don’t use the Teacher Assistant Module in NCWise as their gradebook but use a separate program, administrators won’t be able to view a student’s current grades unless they log in to the online gradebook.  Information will be split in two different locations which isn’t convenient for the administrator.
  3. Separate online gradebooks cost money versus NCWise which is free. 

How much value do we place on parent/student access?  Is it worth pursuing a separate alternative until NCwise implements its module?  What do administrators want?  Is ease/convenience of having all student information in the same location more important than expending extra dollars for parent/student access?

I’m not sure but I would certainly value other opinions out there in the educational technology stratosphere!  Our Media and Technology Advisory Committee will be tackling this issue in the coming weeks as well. 

Webcams in the Classroom, Part II

In the midst of computer deployment, I was able to catch Mrs. Fitts’ 6th grade social studies class using laptops to tour the world in 80 clicks!  I wish I had my camera at the time.  These students were so excited!  They were literally jumping up and down in their seats as they watched ships traveling through the Panama Canal.  They discussed why it would be dark in Tokyo when it was daylight here in North Carolina.  They learned how to decipher 24 hour (military) time.  The room was literally buzzing with learning opportunities! 

Her students also placed some very interesting comments on the school blog entries “Kid Nation” and “Favorite Activities.”

Kudos to Mrs. Fitts’ for bringing this experience to life with her students.  Next time, I’m bringing my camera!

Webcams in the Classroom at MCMS

I’m working with our two 6th grade social studies teachers on integrating webcams into their lessons.  Both teachers are asking students to present a current event to the class on Tuesdays.  Using webcams, Skype, and data projectors, the classes will share their current events with each other as they present.  They are also interested in finding classes around the world to communicate with, using this new technology.

I found some resources online that present lots of possibilities for not just using the webcam in their classroom but also for looking through others’ webcams at different places in the world. 

Webcams in the Classroom(pdf)–This is a list of resources for using webcams in the classroom from technology facilitator, David Cox, in Louisiana.  This document contains basic information on what a webcam is and how to safely use it in the classroom.  Mr. Cox also includes many links to teaching ideas.

Cable in the Classroom Project Cam(pdf)–This document outlines Cable in the Classroom’s Project Cam.  It outlines the project and explains how teachers are using it in their classrooms.  Tips for creating a cultural exchange are also provided.

I hope to update sometime soon with results on our first use of webcams in the classroom at MCMS!

Blogging=Cycle of Learning

Yesterday, as I was helping teachers tweak their blogs in anticipation of launching them to the web, I began thinking about the wonderful possibilities blogs are opening up for our students.  We have so many blogs now that span all different curriculae.  These students have the opportunity to comment on all sorts of different topics.  I see a new cycle of learning developing here.

Students are visiting our school’s blogs.  They read the posts and others’ comments.  Then they process what they’ve read and start writing their own comments.  It occurred to me that we are encouraging students to write across the curriculum!  I have heard this buzz phrase before but I’m not exactly sure I’ve seen it being accomplished up to this point.  Now, I’m seeing students comment on P.E. blogs, art blogs, language arts blogs, science blogs, math blogs, technology blogs, and social studies blogs.  And best of all, they LOVE it!  These students love seeing their comments posted on the Internet.  They have found a voice!  They are reading!  They are writing!  They are learning!

Ok, I am a bit excited.  I have been told that I’m clicking on all cylinders and I suppose that’s true.  I just get really fueled up when I see technology doing it what’s supposed to do in a school:  support and encourage learning.  Technology should walk hand-in-hand with the curriculum.  When it does, the two can be a powerful force and that is what we’re seeing happen at MCMS.

Teacher blogs take off!

Since some of my teachers took the challenge to blow the lid off blogging, I have been seeing some amazing things.  Here are just a few highlights:

Mr. Wolfe posted an introduction video of himself and posted it to YouTube.  He then embedded the video on his blog.  Check out the embedded photo slide show on his “About the Teacher” page as well!

Ms. Curley blogged about the first day of school and found a cute animated gif to brighten up her post.  I also like how she links back to her team members’ blogs.  You have to love the photo of her head in the croc’s mouth (or is it an alligator?)!

Mrs. Rosen shows off her photography skills in a Rock You slide show.  She has a page for each Core class where she posts reminders about homework and assignments as comments.  Nice!

Mrs. Haines blogs about the first day of school as well.  She has links to important documents and forms on her MOS page.  She was also the first teacher to try podcasting at our school last year.

Mrs. Lancaster hits the ground running with tons of comments from her students.  She, like several other teachers, has created separate blogs for each of her classes so they have their own space.

Mr. Green has pages for students to post comments about themselves.  I love all the links to educational videos like the updated version of “Did You Know?” and math tutorial videos from YouTube.  How informative!

Mrs. Johnson has lots of responses to her first blog post on student expectations for the school year.  I like that she turns this around on the students because they are learning all about their teachers’ expectations of them this week.

Mrs. Washalefsky has a page for novel discussion and I love the picture of herself in a Marrakech market!

Mrs. McNamara has a discussion with some of her students through the comments on her blog.  What a great way to communicate with students!

Last but certainly not least, Coach Churchill highlights the first couple of days at school and embeds a YouTube video in a post titled, “Never underestimate what you can achieve.”  He also posted a link to the standards for the President’s Physical Fitness test.  Way to go, Coach!

I am almost speechless at what these teachers have achieved in just a few days.  I didn’t even have time to teach them some of these skills.  They have taken the reins for themselves and run away with it!  It seems teachers have found their voice too!  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!