True Tech Integration
The role of the tech integrator is often difficult to define, and therefore can be very confusing based upon whom you ask. It also becomes cloudy when so many different districts have a different vision about what a true tech integrator does throughout the day, week, and year. I found this to be the case when I switched from my prior district to this new one. So, to try and bring more clarity to what I do, I will provide the vision for the curriculum/technology integrator position here in Rye in hopes that this will help everyone for planning for the future.
Before I dive into my role as a curriculum/technology integrator, let's take a look at the needs here in Rye, both from a teacher and a student perspective. Students in the elementary school were used to being dropped off in the computer lab where they received targeted technology skills instruction from a computer lab teacher with some integration of their grade level curriculum. Therefore technology was taught somewhat in isolation from the regular classroom. Technology equipment was also very outdated (close to 10 years old) in almost all of the classrooms. Both teachers and students need newer equipment and the proper training to not only use the equipment, but to use it effectively to deliver the curriculum and individualize the learning.
At the junior high, students have close to a one-to-one environment with several carts of netbooks and outdated laptops. Students do not travel with these devices throughout the day, so they must login for each class to a network account in order to sync all of their files. Many of the teachers and students within this building use technology a great deal throughout the day, so the need to have access to devices is essential.
Working closely with the Director of Technology, our three year plan consists of updated equipment, a focus on professional development, team teaching/modeling, and a transitional period for essential tech skills within our computer lab setting at the elementary school. Here's how I see it breaking down, and how to use the tech integrator role to help make it all happen.
First, it isn't fair to take a computer lab teacher out of the unified arts schedule and hope that classroom teachers will just pick up where they left off. There will definitely be a disconnect from both teachers and students' understanding. I also don't believe that technology is a separate piece of the curriculum any more, however it also isn't fair to claim that technology doesn't present a new portion on the overfilled plate of the classroom teacher that has never taught it before either.
Our plan for the computer lab, is to take grades K-2 and work on focused technology skills while weaving them into the curriculum still on the unified arts schedule. Therefore students in these grades will get targeted basic computer skills each week for a half hour. In this first year of the plan, the tech integrator will be responsible for the delivery of the lessons while the classroom teacher stays in the lab for assistance and observation. In year two of this model, the classroom teacher and the tech integrator's roles reverse. The classroom teacher takes on the lessons, while the integrator stays in the lab for support. This way change can occur with the proper support structure underneath. By year three, the classroom teacher is ready to take on technology without full assistance from the integrator, however the integrator is available for bigger projects and even classroom instruction if the need arises.
Okay, so grades K-2 is clearly spelled out, but what about grades 3-8? Co-teaching, modeling, and flex time are all great ways to include the integrator into the classroom setting and both assist the teacher and the students needs. In this model, the integrator meets with the classroom teacher to plan out a unit or lesson plan. The lesson is then either co-taught by both teachers, or modeled the first time by the integrator. The second lesson is then taught primarily by the classroom teacher, although the integrator will be there for support. A final wrap up meeting is then organized by both the classroom teacher and integrator to discuss successes and things that need to be tweaked for next time. This way both students and teacher needs are addressed in real time, and the professional development needed by the teacher is focused on the curriculum and the classroom.
Equipment refresh is always a little slow in an educational setting. Many businesses claim to refresh their technology every 3-5 years, while schools are behind that learning curve, closer to every 5-7 years. There was a great student and teacher need for updated equipment within this district when I got here. In many of the classrooms, I saw technology that was 10 years old. We have been able to accomodate classroom teachers with new MacBook Air laptops this year, and we have deployed over 70 iPads to students (2 carts at the junior high school, and 5 iPad minis in each classroom K and 1). We have already looked at the 3 year tech budget plan to ensure we meet the needs of our teachers and students with upgraded equipment in the future as well. Expanding the iPad models into grades 2 and 3 next year, as well as looking at a plan for the upper elementary and middle school grade levels in year three have been discussed. Currently we are looking at presentation tools (such as Apple TVs, Interactive White Boards, and short throw projectors) in classrooms as well as the possible shift from netbooks to Chromebooks at the junior high to allow students to skip the network login step and go directly to their Drive accounts as well.
Lastly, professional development will continue to be a focus for the rest of this year and in the future. Along with this monthly eNewsletter, teachers will get emails pointing to helpful links such as PD calendars, blogs and video tutorials for online learning. There will also be a greater push for before and after school mini PD sessions to address new skills and management of the new equipment. Team times will be used by the integrator to meet with classroom teachers to provide training for newer equipment and delivery of curriculum using these tools. For instance, the Kindergarten and first grade teams will meet with the integrator weekly, or bi-weekly, to explore how best to use the 5 iPad minis within their classroom to promote centers based learning and individualized learning.
It's truly a big undertaking, however, it's an exciting time as well! The Rye School District is ready to move forward and build upon student and teacher skills in the forms of technology use. We will focus on using these tools to enhance education and give our students the necessary 21st century skills they will need to be successful in the ever changing world we live in.
New Teacher Links
5 Uses for Augmented Reality in Education
Find out how you and your classroom can participate in Digital Learning Day (Wednesday February 6th 2013) with this free webinar tomorrow.
Learn how your classroom can compete with other classrooms all over the world in the World Education Games.
Math and number stories told digitally.
Popcorn Maker makes it easy to enhance, remix and share web video. Use your web browser to combine video and audio with content from the rest of the web — from text, links and maps to pictures and live feeds.
Physics Central is a fantastic website full of…you guessed it, physics! There are fantastic sections for students to explore science, activity books, experiments and activities. Students can learn more about physics in action (physics as found in the world around us), meet physicists, and learn about physics research.
E is for EXPLORE is a one stop resource for teachers and parents. We develop unique learning activities, and search the internet and compile additional great ideas from other sources. Our index helps you find what you need quickly and easily. Where we have posted ideas from other sources we provide easy links to those websites. Please visit those as well to see what else they have to offer. All E is for Explore activities conform to state common core curriculum standards.
PD Links for Teachers
A blog post that I started in York, that addresses common problems that we were having within that school district, and ways to troubleshoot around them using the Mac.
Click calendar to view up to date IT PD offerings through the School Administrative Unit.
Check Mr. Lawson's calendar to book time for curriculum and technology integration help. He is ready to meet with you for planning, model lessons, co-teaching, and assisting in your classrooms and in the computer lab.