Sunday, October 7, 2012

Keeping it Simple

Due in part to moving my family to WY, starting work in a district that just launched a 1:1 initiative in grades 3-8, and summer in general I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus.  However, I am committed to keeping this blog going in part because it helps me reflect on why I am doing what I do and also because it has given me the opportunity to connect with others around the world facing the same challenges as I do.

As I mentioned I am now working for a school district that launched a 1:1 program at the beginning of this year for grades 3-8.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this! My role is to work with teachers to get them to effectively use technology in their classrooms.  Before starting the position, I was asked to develop staff trainings for all teachers k-12 that I would conduct prior to the start of classes.  Thinking through what would be most useful I decided to keep it simple.  

Our schools just converted to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) at the end of last year and teachers were not 100% familiar with all that this suite has to offer.  In addition, I worked with the tech department to set up an Edmodo domain.  My reasoning was that with these two platform technologies teachers would have a set of tools that would allow them to develop quite a range of classroom innovations.  I think often times as a technology coach it is easy to overwhelm teachers who may not have strong technology skills.  By just introducing two things GAFE and Edmodo my goal was to reduce the anxiety that technology can produce for teachers and get them using it in ways that positively impact students.

To support this approach I worked with the Director of Technology on a number of initiatives.  We did staff training on GAFE and Edmodo prior to school starting, we held parent nights and let parents try out Edmodo and GAFE, we did basic training for all students on digital citizenship and used Edmodo to facilitate it, we worked with administrators to help them model the use Edmodo and GAFE in their roles as instructional leaders, I blogged about ways teachers are using Edmodo in their classrooms, and I held drop in help sessions for teachers before and after schools so they could get support on using Edmodo and GAFE.  

Now, five weeks or so into the school year I would say the keep it simple strategy is paying off.  Many teachers are using Edmodo and GAFE to run their classrooms and as they become more comfortable with it they are starting to be more innovative in their uses.  I find students using these tools all the time as well, which is the whole point.  Last Friday I stopped in a math class to take some pictures of students using Edmodo and while looking at students’ screens I found: one student working on a collaborative English assignment on a Google Doc, another student reading his classmates’ posts from a social studies discussion on Edmodo, and another student working on a history blog;  all this was occurring during the 5 minutes between students finishing their math warm up and the teacher starting instruction - how great is that!

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