Saturday, March 16, 2013

Once a teacher, always a teacher.

Thanks to an amazing team of co-workers in our IT Dept, I have been able to attend two technology conferences recently, after several years of not being able to go at all. Having attended both the IETA (Idaho Education Technology Association) Conference and the NCCE (Northwest Council for Computer Education) Conference in the past, I had some expectations of what I might learn and encounter. What I didn't expect, was to have my educational technology philosophies, practices, and beliefs rocked to the core as I wrestled with new and fresh concepts and discussions resulting from the many sessions, presentations, and conversations.

As I think through and process all these powerful concepts and philosophies, I am immediately thankful for my current position as the Technology Coordinator for the Kellogg School District, as well as the path I followed leading up to where I am. While there are a great deal of people in my position across the state and nation that were in the public sector IT field and then entered K12 and educational technology, there are also many who, like me, started out in K12 education first and then moved into the K12 IT field. I was a classroom teacher for 9 years and enjoyed every minute of it. I had no interest in pursuing administration because I had too much fun teaching. But I entered the profession at the time when computers and technology were really emerging into the classrooms, rather than just in administration, and my love for technology matched my love for teaching. 

That brings me to where I am today. I'm now in my 6th year as the Technology Coordinator for the Kellogg SD, and it has been a challenging yet rewarding experience that has always been accompanied with a pretty steep learning curve. Interestingly, because I entered the position from the classroom teacher side, I found myself wanting to learn as much technical information as possible, not only for survival, but because it was fun and interesting. Whether it was tearing apart computers and servers, or crawling in tight spaces to run category 5 data cable, it was all fun and fascinating. I outline that process because it really illustrates where I was so I can describe how I'm wrestling with where I believe I'm going. It is as though I've gone from teacher, to tech administration, and am now gravitating in my position back to the teacher/classroom focus of things. Now, I feel it is important to explain that in reality it wasn't as though I had nothing to do with teachers or classrooms the last 6 years. But there were times when we were short on personnel, and handling the technology part of my job was overwhelming and demanded every minute of my day. It was still fun and exciting, but it seemed like just keeping things afloat consumed all resources at my disposal. 

This current school year, I have a fantastic team to work with. I think that we are really getting a lot accomplished and in turn I am able to start to take a look at how we can better serve our teachers and students. Most importantly, since I attended the IETA and NCCE conferences I've really learned a great deal and heard some wonderful presentations of how technology is really revolutionizing education. There are so many great educational technology minds and leaders out there and connecting with them at these conferences and also on Twitter has really energized me and got me thinking. In particular, one of the most impactful experience and thought provoking articles I read as a result of the conference and Twitter PLN I have created is by George Couros, Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada. In addition to speaking at the NCCE Conference in Portland, George also blogged this post titled 4 Guiding Questions For Your IT Dept. That blog post alone has really ignited the teacher in me and has really energized me and motivated me to take a hard look at what my dept is doing and how we can alter our focus and do a much better job for teachers and students. It won't happen overnight, but we are already excited about the process. One thing we have done already is to have a Technology Committee meeting  and collaborate and share ideas and information. We are already launching a renewed push for better profesional development. Additionally we are also looking at what devices and technology access models we currently use and finding new and more cost efficient ways to get technology in the hands of teachers and students. 

The road ahead is not going to be easy. We are facing critical decisions and possible budget cuts yet again, and our district continues to lose students. Standardized tests and the systemic educational mandates make it even more challenging to allow true creativity. But we are determined to look forward and keep doing our best every day. Our district mission statement is "Building our future, one student at at time," and I feel that my job as the Technology Leader is to equip our students and teachers with the technology tools that will all them to engage, create, collaborate, individualize instruction and create an environment that makes learning meaningful and relevant. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.