As an EdTech Leader on my campus and district I am often asked how something works, or rather how do you use a certain product. In years past I would show learners how to use the tool, but now I have stopped showing; I have started asking. I change my learners questions to this question: What is it that you are trying to accomplish? What is the goal? This in turn has my learners stopping and thinking what they are trying to do instead of getting a problem quickly fixed. Then we transition to having a mini session of them navigating through the tool as they are finishing the tasks. This means that I am not touching the product, they are and they are learning. So why am I telling you all of this?
Today I was in a session where leaders in my district wanted to know how to use two Learning Management Systems (LMS). The person leading the session asked my friend and I on using the tool. Quite frankly, I have only dabbled and played with the product. However, I decided to tell the person to change the conversation, not because I have only dabbled with it, but from what I stated above; what are you trying to accomplish? As a leader of the campus, what is your end goal? What is the technology infrastructure on your campus? What is your campus level in technology integration period? How are you going to lead and model using whatever LMS you decide to use? These are all questions that you have to ask yourself before you present an LMS to your staff. The biggest question that you also need to ask is what is the district modeling and implementing, and above all paying for.
I will say that for my district we have purchased an LMS that we have been using for a couple of years. What is coming down the pipe now is that district leaders and program directors are being trained to place their professional development courses and curriculum in this platform. I said this to principals and teachers not to scare them, but to get them to think. What is happening is that content will be trickled down from district leaders, to principals, to department heads, and given to the teachers. So eventually staff will have to learn how to access the platform and use it. Again, something for them to think about. I wasn’t trying to sway them in one direction, but I wanted to get them thinking.
The session quickly turned from a how to to a discussion. Which is what my partner and I leading the discussion wanted. There are several different EdTech tools out there that have listened and jumped on the bandwagon and started creating LMS features for their products. They are finally understanding teachers time when teaching and implementing. Like my director said some aren’t any better than the other, but as a whole they all do the same thing.
After listening to my friend and partner I do prefer one over the other, and even though I tinker with the product, it took a lot of convincing. The product helps my workflow when I blend and teach in classrooms and when I give professional development. My friend did make an excellent argument about certain LMS tools fitting a certain grade level. For example, for the younger grades using SeeSaw, for the middle grades using tools such as Google Classroom or even Classcraft, and for the higher grades tools like Canvas or Schoology.
I do agree with this 100%. What we should see is growth of implementing technology tools from each grade to the next, and from one classroom to the next; especially with LMS’s. Ideally by the time a student reaches high school they should have been exposed to at least 3 to 4 different LMS’s. Ideally the blended integration should be seamless and easy. I happen to ask a principal at another school how certain students were doing in the next grade since they were exposed to tech tools and blended instruction in the previous grade. I was told that originally it was the teacher that was going to push the students to use the tools, but the pressure was on because it was the students pushing her to do more and step out of her comfort zone; which is what you want. You don’t want to stop when kids want to push to learn more.
This prompted me to talk to my principal about joining and connecting our school with the elementary that feeds into us, the middle school that we feed into, and even the pre k. Nothing is set in stone but we want the conversations to happen and start being connected. All that being said look what has blossomed. From learning how to use 2 products, to thinking about campus and district infrastructure, to connecting schools to have a common goal for blended learning. All this from just learning how to use a Learning Management System.
So today is the last day before I head back to work and start a new calendar year. Ughhhh. Yes that is a natural reaction, but I shouldn’t be greedy because as I lurk on Twitter I see teachers and districts already back in session. I am thankful for at least one more day to recharge and reflect on the past year.
Like all of us Educators throughout the year I had some success this year and failures. It’s the failures that I have to reflect upon because through the grace of God I made it through stronger, equipped, and prepared. This year (or school year rather) my wife and I experienced a lot of first. We are officially parents of 2 teenagers; one 13 and the other 15. That alone is a new step. As excited I am to know that my kids are older and I can let go of some things, the more I realize that our job is just beginning.
My kids are trying to make their own way and have their own opinions and we as parents are learning to let it go. My son this year was and is struggling on finding out who he is as person as all 13 year old kids do. My daughter entered high school this year which again was new territory for us.
We as parents have helped her smooth into the transition and all 3 of us realize that it truly is a different beast or world. We all struggled with her as she was trying to balance school, family, and other activities; even her health. I haven’t let on about it much, but it has been a daily/weekly battle on getting her well and motivating her to go to school. Not only were there times where she had doubts, but we had some doubts as well. Not about her but about the situation. Honestly all I could do was leave it up to God and put it in his hands. There were some things that my daughter wanted to do but we had to take a step back and wait which made her upset. However, it was the best thing. Growing pains.
There were initiatives that I placed on my campus when it came to innovation and integration that didn’t pan out like I thought it would. I was stressed about it and I would get upset. I think only a few people noticed. At the same time I’m doing outside things to help inspire and encourage me to keep going. However, I just felt unfulfilled. Again these are growing pains.
As you are reading this you are probably thinking….Wow he had a lot going on. We all do. However, as I prepared for this school year I never thought about what other things are in place, but who does. When your passion driven, that fuel pushes you sometimes to get to that finish line so you can start the race; if that makes sense.
It wasn’t until Thanksgiving and the Holiday break that I really sat down and begin to reflect what I have been doing this semester. There is a quote from my friend from my PLN that says: --"Grant me the Serenity to accept the technology I can not change. The Courage to learn and use the technology I have and the Wisdom to ask my PLN for help"-- My PLN: Rachel Wooten
It is adapted from the Serenity Prayer below.
I have Rachel’s quote as part of my signature for my email. But, it wasn’t until these breaks that I really understood what this truly means to me.
With every struggle I face and every heartache I go through it makes me more prepared and a better person. The times I spent with my son I realize how inventive he is and how he picks up on things rather quickly. When he puts his mind to something he sets it out and he does it. He does get frustrated, but he is persistent in getting his task done. He is one of the reasons why he inspired me to come up with my district’s technology conference theme for next year.
Spending time with my daughter I see how artistic and beautiful she is. She has a beautiful voice and can pick up on drawing and dancing like anyone I know. She loves make-up, and when you hear her talk about the proper way to use it and apply your mouth will drop. She makes me want to put on makeup, not that I would or anything (LOL) but the way she educates you on it you have an understanding of it.
And don’t get me started on their gaming abilities. I am a gamer myself but when your own kids school you on how to play and show you better options on completing your task in a game you just want to just pass the torch and just watch. It’s amazing. But don’t tell them that I told you that. Bottom line is that I see the growth and talent that they have beyond just regular school. However, they know that I am a stickler for their academics and they know that it is important, but I respect their wonderful gifts and they know that.
My work life isn’t always rosy, and what job is, but what I do realize is that my staff from administrators to teachers give me the tools to help me grow in my profession. They have allowed me to be the cheerleader to help support them in their innovation goals. They allow me to grow in my craft and help the campus to grow. The majority know my purpose and they try to fit innovation and integration in their classes whenever they can. Even though I have had setbacks with initiatives, I have so many teachers understand the power of innovation and integration. I know I am making a difference when I have reluctant teachers go to Twitter and have fun with it. They now are understanding that the transformation doesn’t have to be overnight, but if you take baby steps and work with what is comfortable you can keep growing. And for me that is what I am looking at; growth. Just like teachers look at students. Let’s not forget I had a chance to step out of my comfort zone and become an author with some amazing people in my PLN (Again thank you Sarah Thomas for that).
When I return testing season will officially begin. It is still my job to support and be that cheerleader for my campus. We will still integrate and innovate. Those state tests are just a day to take a test. My focus is to get my campus learning, growing, and opening their eyes to things that they never thought that they could do. I will be changing some initiatives around to help support the students and teachers better and we are just going to grow. What I realize is that all the struggles that have been placed upon me this fall semester are now allowing me to grow. My seed has been planted and it’s up to me to tend to it and let it grow and flourish. I truly believe that 2017 will be a great year for growth, positivity, change, and risks. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me.
When making comments please conduct yourselves respectively and appropriately online. DO NOT post your first and last name. Use a nick name or first name last initial.