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!

Swimming in the Deep End…Again!

Ok, I’ve taken a break from blog reading/posting and even using my Google home page combined with Google gadgets like Google Reader etc. I’ve just been too busy to engage in the Web 2.0 world for a while.

So recently, as my scheduled has relaxed a little, I have cannonballed back into the deep water and I am fired up once more! It’s been so easy to focus solely on NCWise or the day-to-day grind of troubleshooting and meetings. I am ashamed to see that my blog posts have waned considerably.

What I realized over the last days is that by not actively participating in Web 2.0, I have missed out on what is currently happening in the world of technology education. My professional knowledgeometer has dipped down to empty and I have been running on fumes. This in turn has an impact on the staff of teachers I am supposed to inspire and, more importantly, the student body who desperately needs teachers to engage them in meaningful ways.

So, with renewed fervor, I stand on the edge of the Web 2.0 pool and survey the waters. There is a lot of work to do.

I recently attended a department meeting of social studies teachers. One comment that has haunted me: “No matter what activity I do, the kids just don’t care. I don’t know how to make social studies interesting to them anymore.” During the meeting I heard teachers spinning their wheels with old technologies/teaching methods that don’t interest students. There was a distinct staleness in the conversation. It struck me that like many teachers, they are isolated in their classrooms and are starving for fresh new ideas. I want so desperately now to connect our teachers with professional blogs and resources where they can learn more about what others in their fields are doing with technology and the read/write web. Just like I have benefited from a renewed dip into the Web 2.0 pool, I know teachers would as well and, in turn, hopefully share these benefits with the students.

Laptop Learning Initiative–Final Assignment

“As your final assignment, due May 15, please update your blogs with a link to your best laptop based project (preferably Web 2.0)…Along with that link, I would like you to describe what it is and how the laptop helped you accomplish this. Share some changes in your work habits that the laptops inspired. Finally, give some thoughts on what kinds of training or initiatives you would like us to undertake as a group next year.”

My Best Laptop Project: Enhanced Podcast of 5th Grade Visit to MCMS (Used Photo Story, Audacity, Creative Commons Music)

I was asked to document one of our new strategies for helping rising 6th graders with their transition to middle school. Our school assigned visiting 5th graders as shadows to current 6th graders for a day. I took digital photos of their visit and then interviewed one boy and one girl along with the 6th graders they were shadowing. We recorded the interview straight into Audacity. I edited the audio in Audacity, utilizing the techniques learned in our workshop with Patrick Keough. I created an enhanced podcast in Photo Story by combining the digital photos and the mp3 track of the interview created in Audacity. I found some Creative Commons Licensed music and created a short edited track in Audacity which I mixed in for introduction and exit music. I also added the music track to the interview, mixing it in Audacity before I created the mp3. Having the laptop really helped because we were able to pass the laptop around during the interview. It has a built-in microphone, the only one we had in the school at the time. I was also able to work on the project over the weekend because it was saved on the desktop of my laptop.

How My Work Habits Have Changed by Using a Laptop: My work habits have changed quite a bit. I take my laptop to meetings and take minutes on the computer instead of writing things down. I have felt much more free to use a data projector for instruction because I can just scoop up my machine and check out the cart with the projector. I don’t have to worry about a computer being available to use with the projector or having to use a very long cable to connect the projector to a desktop across the room. I have used my laptop at conferences to take notes, collaborate, and edit our school’s web page remotely. I have used the laptop with two different groups of science students to teach and guide them through making digital movies as part of a project. It was easier for four students to gather around a laptop at a table in the Media Center and work on their movie than to huddle around a desktop. I watched, amazed, as these students worked together in teams. They were so excited to be using the laptop and a wireless mouse that they were eager to take turns being “in control” on the machine. I have also used my laptop to share ideas with other educators through Skype and Second Life.

Thoughts on Projects for Next Year: I would really like to learn more about:

  • screencasting,
  • using blog software to create my own blog from scratch (I would love to see our school’s website become a blog but we need more control than a free website like Word Press could give us.)
  • using Web 2.0 tools with students
  • using online school programs like Blackboard in a public school

Final Thoughts: I want to thank Joe Poletti for being the driving force behind this project and the county for allowing the purchase of laptops for all tech facilitators in the county. I think we as a group are closer because of the collaboration we have experienced. We have branched out and tried new things. My life is different because of the flexibility and mobility I have with my laptop. It has impacted the lives of students in my school both directly and indirectly. That’s what technology is all about after all: impacting students and aiding learning. If that is the end result at the end of the day, then the money spent was well worth it. I would love to see this possibility open up for our teachers and students in the future as well. I know our teachers would be more productive if they had such easy access to technology and the software we use at school. Using data projectors in the classroom would be so much easier as well because now we have problems with having the correct cables and the distance of the teacher’s desktop from the projector. I have stated my opinions before about every student having their own laptop. I would love to see a one-to-one initiative happen in our county, where every student had access to their own computer. I know computers aren’t the answer to all of education’s ills but I think leveling the playing field in the area of technology would open up a world of possibilities for many students who would ordinarily never be exposed to them.

Characteristics of a Digital Native

Characteristics of a Digital Native

Following is a compilation of characteristics of 21st-century learners gleaned from a variety of sources, including an American Association of School Librarians blog, high school and university student interviews, and Kim Jones, vice president of global education for Sun Microsystems.

  • Multimedia oriented
  • Web-based
  • Less fear of failure
  • Instant gratification
  • Impatient
  • Nonlinear
  • Multitasker
  • Less textual, more modalities
  • Active involvement
  • Very creative
  • Less structured
  • Expressive
  • Extremely social
  • Need a sense of security that they are defining for and by themselves
  • Egocentric
  • Preference for electronic environments
  • Have electronic friends
  • Thrive with redefined structure
  • Surface-oriented
  • Information overload
  • Widening gap to information access
  • Share a common language
  • Risk takers
  • Technology is a need
  • Aren’t looking for the right answer
  • Feel a sense of entitlement
  • Constant engagement
  • All information is equal
  • No cultural distinctions (global)
  • Striving to be independent

—with acknowledgment to Diane Beaman

And we wonder why some of them won’t pay attention when we give them simple pen and paper work. These students are longing for more and we need to figure out how to teach them in a way that will reach them.

Here is a video that goes well with this blog post from TeacherTube (Cool Cat Teacher Blog introduced me to this–didn’t even know it existed).  Why should we teach technology to students?

Logic+Emotion: The End of Knowledge Hoarding

Logic+Emotion: The End of Knowledge Hoarding

I ran across this post in my Sunday night purge of Google Reader.  When I read the post, I wondered:  Have we reached the end of knowledge hoarding?  I’ve admitted before that as a French teacher, I was a knowledge hoarder of sorts.  Since becoming a tech facilitator, I have felt the temptation to act in the same way; however, I have had to change my M.O. from the beginning.

Making the switch from classroom teacher to tech facilitator was like driving a speed boat and jumping out at top speed.  No longer was I in control of a machine that I was familiar with.  I was swimming and the territory was unknown to me.  I had passion and drive though.  I also needed a lot of help.  I relied a lot on the shared knowledge of those more experienced .  If they hadn’t shared their knowledge with me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I watch students in our middle school.  They are so willing to help each other.  In fact, it’s almost impossible to keep them from helping each other.  They are eager to share their knowledge.  They’re also using collaborative web sites where they publish their own fan fiction and other types of stories.

These kids do the backstroke in the waters of Web 2.0, while many adults I know aren’t even near the shore.  In fact, many don’t even know it exists.  Though these kids don’t know the term Web 2.0 or the read/write web, they post their goals on 43things, share their stories on sites like Naruto Central, and get connected to their friends through social sites like MySpace.

How do we make the move as teachers schooled in the age of knowledge hoarding/gatekeeping to knowledge sharers/collaborators?  I know I play a part with staff development, leading by example, and exposing our staff to new ideas and tools.  What else can I do to turn the tide?