Archive for February, 2013

Lessons Learned

My first year as an Instructional Technology Specialist has been spent at an elementary school helping implement a 1:1 initiative with iPads.  In this series of posts, I’d like to share with you lessons I’ve learned, challenges the teachers have faced, and a few of my favorite lessons I’ve seen with the iPads this year.

Lessons Learned

Probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned this year is that no matter how excited I get about a new app or website, I’m a tech nerd, and the teachers I’m working with aren’t.  They just are not going to get as gung-ho about something as I am.  There are, however, those few teachers who will take whatever I show them and run with it.  It’s those teachers I’ve learned to go to first.  I have found that if I can get two or three teachers on board and trying something new, when it comes time to share with the whole group, we have some tried and true examples that come straight from their colleagues.  I have found that teachers are more willing to try something if another teacher has tried and had success with it first.  It doesn’t matter that I have 6 years experience teaching; I’m the outsider as the tech facilitator.

A second lesson I’ve learned is that teachers really need the devices that are going to be used in the 1:1 implementation more than a month before the rollout.  Every piece of research on 1:1 programs will tell you this.  In fact, most recommend that the teachers have the devices in their hands for at least a year prior to implementation.  Our teachers had about a month with their iPads before school started.  Many of them had never held an iPad or downloaded an app before.  I honestly feel that if they had had more time with the devices before they had to introduce them to their students and integrate them into their daily teaching, we would be seeing the devices integrated more cohesively into the curriculum.

The third lesson I’ve learned is to not take things personally.  At the beginning of the year, it really hurt my feelings when I’d deliver this great staff development presentation that had taken me hours to put together, and then the staff would spend the hour glazed and dazed and walk out not impressed.  I have had to work hard to put myself back in their shoes and remember all the stresses that go along with being a teacher.  Right or wrong, I’ve begun to put most of my attention on that group I mentioned earlier who are ready and willing to learn all the positive ways technology can be integrated into their teaching.with their iPads before school started.  Many of them had never held an iPad or downloaded an app before.  I honestly feel that if they had had more time with the devices before they had to introduce them to their students and integrate them into their daily teaching, we would be seeing the devices integrated more cohesively into the curriculum.

sync cart

Something else I’ve learned is you might not get it right the first, second, or either third time. I have been so frustrated over the course of the year when it comes time to sync the 12 iPad carts we’ve got here at school.  The syncing cart doesn’t work sometimes, the restrictions have been set in such a way that I have to touch every iPad before loading them in the cart, I forgot to set a restriction so I’ve got to reset somethings, and the list goes on and on.  At this point, 7 months after we got started, I think I’ve found the best solution for quickly syncing the iPads.  My point here is to know up front that the whole deployment/implementation is going to be a learning experience for everyone, not just the teachers.

Lastly, I have learned to be more proactive.  At the beginning of the year, I shared with the teachers how excited I was about being there all day every day as support for them.  I created a schedule and a Google Doc form for them to schedule time to come to model lessons in the classrooms.  I started a weekly memo that reminded them that I’m ready and willing to work with them one on one.  I had maybe three or four teachers schedule time with, and unfortunately, only a small portion of those actually stayed in the room to learn along with the students.  Frustrated is an understatement to how I’ve been feeling.  After talking with my supervisor, I’ve decided to schedule time with the teachers without waiting for them.  I have found this to be much more successful, and the teachers are excited about me coming into their rooms.  I’m guessing with everything else they’ve got going on, remembering to jump on our 1:1 website and schedule time just wasn’t a top priority.  So if you’re experiencing the same issues at your school, don’t wait for the teachers.  They’ve got enough going on.  Let them know when you’re coming and what you’re teaching and just do it!

Chalkboard Twitter 2-128x128

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We’ve all heard the abbreviation “PLN”, which stands for Personal Learning Network.  If we take each word separately, we can easily define a PLN as a network of people and resources used by an individual for the purposes of learning.  If we use the definition of a PLN provided by Wikipedia, which states that a PLN is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from, we see that Twitter definitely fits the bill.  In “The Blue Birds are Tweeting” Parts 1 and 2 I introduced you to the Twitter basics and how you can search Twitter for topics that interest you.  Now I want you to consider utilizing Twitter as part of your own PLN.

I know it may be a stretch for you to think of a social media outlet as a meaningful source of information.  After all, you’ve been using social media, like Facebook, mainly as a way to connect with friends from the past, stay up-to-date with far away family, and as a way to be nosy and see what other people are doing.  At least, that’s how I used social media up until recently.  That is, until I discovered how remarkably valuable social media, especially Twitter, can be since its a giant hub of information geared towards educators at all levels and content areas.   As I mentioned in Part 1, it’s the educators who are the most passionate and knowledgeable about their field who are sharing on sites like Twitter and Edmodo (I’m dedicating a whole new series of posts to Edmodo, so stay tuned).  Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to connect and communicate with the best and brightest the world has to offer?!  Have a question about something or need a lesson idea for next week?  Post it! If you make use of those hashtags mentioned in Part 2, you’ll have many tips and suggestions in no time.

Let me give you an example.  Last week I was having some issues with syncing our school’s iPad carts.  My frustration level was through the roof!  I jumped on Twitter, sent out a request for help, and in less that 5 minutes, I had 7 responses.  One gentleman even went so far as to email me a step-by-step guide (with pictures!) to help me out.  I was able to use the responses to solve my problem, and I was oh-so happy to finally have syncing those darn carts down to a science…after 7 months.

In addition to receiving responses and feedback super fast, Twitter has become my go to source for news on the latest educational apps and websites, as well as a curator of sorts for blogs that are useful to me.  Instead of spending hours searching for an app or website to use, or combing through blog posts for something applicable to my situation, I spend 15 minutes a day on Twitter and get more ideas and information than I can use in a month.  As a PLN, I’ve not found any website or community that is more active than Twitter.  The tweets never stop!    So, it’s time to bite the bullet and set up your account!  Its free, by the way.  Who doesn’t want free professional development?!?  What are you waiting for?

I’ve listed some of the educator-gurus that I’m following below.  Check them out, and don’t forget to connect with me: @BoucherLauren!

People to Follow:

Kevin Honeycutt:  @kevinhoneycutt

Shelly Terrell: @ShellTerrell

Jerry Swiatek:  @jswiatek

Jayme Linton:  @jaymelinton

Lisa Johnson:  @TechChef4u

Sean Junkins:  @sjunkins

Steven Anderson:  @web20classroom

Vickie Davis:  @coolcatteacher

Richard Byrne:  @rmbyrne

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