To say the beginning of this year was tumultuous is an understatement. I'm either in calmer waters or I'm so seasick that I don't know better.
The lab is up and running (most of the time). Between changing over to Windows 7 from XP and reimaging, I have lost student work, tried to teach a kindergarten class on a program that was no longer available to them, and even stumped the IT guys when Word wouldn't open, only to find out that the first-time user window popped up behind the student Novell window. I won't even mention what the possessed printer does...
I have taught myself the basics of ten different programs, and gotten to know a few quite well (iStation and Learning.com), with others waiting for more attention (Hitachi's Star Board and Safari Montage). I've watched countless tutorial videos, attended a mind-boggling visit to a nearby district which has worked through many of the kinks with managing Apple's Volume Purchasing Program.
I have implemented a weekly Digital Deal sharing one professional resource, one iPad app, and one Web 2.0 tool. It is posted on our schoolwide collaborative site where I'm sure no one reads it. Plan B implementation starts this week. Perhaps I just need a different marketing strategy. I had two visitors for our bi-weekly iShare time, and although it was a small groups, I feel confident that the quick sharing by others is worth its time.
This week I begin meeting with my 5th grade field reporters to teach them how to look for news stories and film basics. Not gonna lie. I'm excited! If each student could just report on one story and share it with the school, I will deem that undertaking successful. However, with technology, I'm learning that what should be simple, usually isn't.
This Friday, I conduct my first Lunch Shift 21 PLN gathering during each grade-level's lunch. It's totally voluntary, and is centered around growing as a 21st century teacher. First order of business: get Twitter accounts open and following fellow professionals with similar interests.
I'm just hoping that my ship stays afloat enough to keep moving in unchartered waters with time to swab the deck when things get rough.
I hate schedules. Actually, it's scheduling I dislike. However, scheduling is part of having a school lab run smoothly. One of my major goals for this year seems simple enough: Have classroom teachers sign up on our shared electronic calendar when they need the lab. This means setting up calendars for each lab, getting district permission for all teachers to have proxy access so that they can schedule themselves. Then it seemed like a good idea to make a "How To" guide complete with screen shots for teachers. Next, I decided to schedule an introductory lesson with each class. (Of course, I'm scheduling these because I haven't gotten to share the "How To" with the teachers.) And, if there is going to be an introductory lesson, I should set the lab up in a way that utilizes time, equipment, and management most efficiently. Let's not forget that we have to be sure that each student is even in the "system," or even those that are may need to be added to various programs, such as keyboarding. That's not even considering how to look up or change passwords for those that can't remember or that Kindergarteners just need to learn to use a mouse and click.
I feel pretty good about some of the systems I've set up such as using the red Solo cups for those that need help or to mark which computers may be on the fritz as opposed to the green ones that signify all's well at that station. (Toby Keith, you missed this use in your song...Maybe I should write one for teachers???) I also have each student using the same computer number (yes, I'm making a list of these for each class) so computers can boot up faster or so I can pinpoint students who may be using them incorrectly or inappropriately.
My district requires that 3rd through 5th graders learn to keyboard through 45 minutes of practice a week. No problem, right? There are programs galore out there that do this. (Our district uses learning.com). However, it is going to take more than a program to get kids to learn this...hence, the "practice to learn, not finish" lesson.
Although I see the point in all of this, especially at the beginning of the year with changes in the way things have always been done, I can't help but revert back to my age-old mantra of "I need to feel like I'm impacting student or teacher learning." My need to make a difference has gotten more profound as I get older, not less. Why, I don't know. Right now, I'm going to have to trust that those baby steps I'm taking are getting someone somewhere. Next big challenge: communicating with teachers. Maybe those steps will be a little steeper...
What have I gotten myself into? Tomorrow is the first day of school in my new job as Digital Literacy Coach in an amazing elementary school. Actually, I've been back for over a week along with taking weeks of professional development over the summer. But as all teachers know you can only prepare so much...we are in a profession of practice, afterall.
Let me backtrack for just a moment. I've been teaching for over 20 years with the last 10 in gifted education, and the last 3 of those really learning to integrate technology across the curriculum. I went into that last position and was told that my 61 gifted 4th and 5th graders would each be writing and making their own films in a competition that will commence at a district-wide parent-attended award ceremony. What? I've never made a movie in my life! With what technology? Four PCs, two Flip cameras, an outdated version of Windows Movie Maker, and well, that's it. Needless to say that I got better each year, as did the films, but it was my first real venture using real technology with a designed purpose.
As curriculum writers for English Language Arts and Social Studies, my planning partner and I decided that we were tired of our students arriving in our classrooms saying, "Feed me. Fill me with your wonderful knowledge." Yet they couldn't find Google if they Googled it. Enough of that. We turned over the apple cart and changed the way we approached just about everything and didn't look back. I figured that if I, the non-techie, albeit risk-taker, teacher could integrate technology with virtually no technology, then surely anyone could.
Last May, as I'm helping my oldest look for and apply for the few coveted teaching jobs in the area, I saw the job post for a Digital Literacy Coach. My three years of risk-taking, strong curriculum and instructional skills, and staff development experience surely made me qualified, right? Somehow, I managed to convince the district administration that I was the best person for the job, and now I'm beginning.
In many ways, I feel like a first year teacher. This last week, as teachers have prepared their classrooms for their students, I have: lost my iPad, set up computers and microphone for New Student Orientation, learned to install printers on the PC and Mac, become more adept at Evernote (our new initiative for documenting student progress on the iPad), established an electronic way to sign up for our computer labs, sat in my first team meeting at which I only understood about 50% of all that was discussed over 3 hours, became more transparent in my professional connections (more on that later), developed a brochure to inform teachers how the school's Library Media Specialist and I work together, agreed to meet with two middle school teachers to help them Flip their classrooms, and found out I was teaching Kindergarten students every week. (That last one really has me reeling: They don't even know their letters. How will they log in?)
I hope to document the trials, tribulations, successes and stories throughout this first year. Now that I have over 500 students and over 50 staff members, I am hoping I won't miss having my own students, but I know I will. I just want to make a difference, like always.