Sunday, March 4, 2012

Becoming a Tech Facilitator: Part I

About a month ago I was asked by @pronovost, via twitter, to do a post on becoming a Technology Integration Facilitator.  So I'll take a just a few moments today to tell my story.  Consider this Part I: How I became a 'Geek Teacher'.

Classroom Blog
My path toward educational technology began with a blog; SURPRISE! SURPRISE!  That blog taught me a lot about the internet and the power behind communication and transparency with parents and students.  Perhaps the best part about blogging in my classroom was that it helped me reflect on my own classroom and teaching.  That reflection helped me become a better teacher, then the technology encouraged me to continue improving and innovating new ways that I could get my course content into my students hands.  This is precisely why I continue to blog today.  The reflection time it takes to write each blog post helps me collect my thoughts, consider my methods, and refocus my energy toward worthwhile goals.

My blog began as a daily journal of classroom activities.  In fact, check out my very first post below:
It was my best answer for keeping that every day classroom management problems to a minimum.  The monotony of answering "Mr. Ashby, did we do anything important while I was gone yesterday?" was killing my instruction time, not to mention my morale.  The blog fixed this.  I started conditioning my students to go to the blog before they asked me what we did in class yesterday.

Within a few weeks my students were emailing me from home in the middle of the day, asking me when that day's blog post would be up.  I discovered that they didn't want to fall behind.  All I had to do was make the information available to them and they would take care of the rest.

During my first interview to become I technology integration facilitator I was asked to show my blog.  I'm convinced that my blog played a major factor in me getting hired.  It really couldn't have been bubbly personality :)

Posting documents:
A few weeks later I was posting documents.  In one case I posted a study guide to a test.  A few days later I posted the answer key to that study guide.  For some reason I decided to use that study guide as the actual test...I didn't change a thing.  Most of my student's grades went up a little.  One student, however, scored a 32%.  Her mom came into my classroom after school and demanded to know what was going on.  I pulled up the blog, showed her the study guide, then the answers, and then showed the student's test.  The mom turned and smacked her daughter on the back of the head!  "What were you thinkin'?" she asked.  "He gave you the answers, and you still failed."  The student didn't fail another test that semester.

Interwrite slate by eInstruction. My first IWB.
Interactive Whiteboard:
As I got better with my blog, I decided that I could do more with it.  I found out that my campus had interactive whiteboard software.  Instead of trying to learn it first, I decided I would just start using it...Cold Turkey!  My students laughed at me as I fumbled through it.  But over the next few weeks I got better, I let them use it, they got better, and we learned a new piece of technology together.  It set a tone in my classroom that I had never seen before.  It was powerful.

The interactive whiteboard helped me solve 2 big problems:

  1. I had a student who was visually impaired.  She couldn't see what I wrote on the whiteboard, and she needed a hard copy of all the notes I took in class.  The IWB software enabled me to print a copy of everything I wrote on the board.  Then I found out that her specific disability she couldn't read from a white board, but she could, however, read white on black if the writing were big enough.  The IWB helped this student and I bridge a gap that we had both struggled with for months prior.
  2. The screen capture and recording feature of the IWB enabled me to create my own tutorial videos.  My students were more often inclined to watch a video of a concept and rewind it as often as they needed instead of asking me, and having to deal with the societal pressures of asking questions in front of their peers.  It also helped them view the videos according to their own busy schedules and not just during my 3 hours of tutorial times during the week.
I began posting these to my blog.  I setup my own routine of recording the videos 2-3 times a week during my planning period.  That was also when I posted to my blog.

CPS clicker by eInstruction
Response clickers:
The next step in my classroom evolution, was CPS response clickers.  My school's Educational Technologist helped send me to TCEA conference of 2008.  While working the vendor floor, I won my very own set of CPS clickers.  I learned them backwards and forwards.  My students and I used them 3 days out of 5.  It helped me acquire data about my students knowledge and skills, which I turned around to use to re-teach and plan lessons targeted at the deficiencies of my students.  They also allowed my students to gain instantaneous feedback about their own performance.  The era of spending a day or two grading and then handing back assignments only to see them end up in the trash minutes later, were history for me.  Grading papers by hand was inefficient.  Today's teacher needs to use time better to find students' needs and plan lessons designed to captivate students while filling those needs.

Multi Media:
I had at my disposal a Sanako audio language/computer lab, where I could have my students sit in a cubicle and record their speech while I teamed them up with any group of students in the classroom.  I made every effort I could to learn that system backward and forward so that I knew what it was capable of and could build lessons on top of.  I found that the playback of recorded audio was priceless to my young language learners.  So I branched out and started having my kids do video.  I didn't have video cameras at my disposal.  I found that many kids had camera phones, point & shoot cameras, and other devices that also recorded video, so I had the students team up and use their own equipment at home to record movies, cooking shows, and more.  The playback was entertaining, but it was also much more...It was teaching the students to look and listen to themselves and compare themselves to the accents they heard of natives and their peers in the classroom.

Sharing with Colleagues:
Sharing my knowledge and ideas with my colleagues is very important for me.  Like my blog, it allows me to throw my ideas out there and start conversations and collaborations with peers.  I use these conversations and collaborations to: 
  • Polish and develop my ideas
  • Continue to learn
  • Create team work opportunities
  • Establish rapport 
  • Learn from the creativity of others
  • Bring recognition to the creativity and accomplishments of my peers & teachers in general
The four walls of the classroom can be very isolating.  Technology can break down those walls and open opportunities for learning, not just for our students but for ourselves also.  Technology helped me see teaching, learning, myself, and the world in a much different light.  It gave me the confidence to try anything, even pivoting my career.