Technology Integration Specialist: Revelations About My Vocation

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I had a unique and unexpected learning experience yesterday.  I attended Edcamp Exit 8a, the first edcamp ever hosted by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA).  It was their first edcamp, and it also happened to be the first NJPSA event that I had ever attended.  As an aspiring administrator, I had just joined the organization and literally received my welcome letter the day before this edcamp.

So there I was, in a room that was predominantly occupied by all kinds of administrators, from supervisors to principals to district-level admins.  There was also a smattering of technology experts, coaches, and teachers with various experience.  As a new member, I was ready to learn from all of these people.

Something unexpected happened.  The edcamp session board, which is always populated on the spot by volunteers from the audience, just wasn’t filling up.  As the minutes ticked on and I saw so many vacancies on the grid, I decided to put myself out there and volunteer to present.  As even more time passed and the need remained evident, I signed up for two more session presentations (there were only 3 sessions that day) and hoped for the best.  I’ve been to well over a dozen edcamps and figured I could facilitate a discussion – or three.  To be honest, at that point, I was a little disappointed because my goal had been to come as a learner and to tap into the experience and expertise of others.

It’s my first session that had enough of an impact on me to have me thinking and blogging about it today.  My session was titled, “What Is A Technology Integration Specialist?”  I am brand new to this role (officially), and I shared that with the group right off the bat.  I used an infographic that I had recently created as the basis for the session.  (Click HERE for the full infographic, but here’s a small snapshot:

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As you can see, the focus was on what tech integration specialists can DO.  I explained to the session participants that this was a newly-created position, and that my goal was to present this infographic to the staff members I would be serving in order to show all the ways I can provide services.  The response to the ideas was very much favorable, which was validating, to say the least.  I was honored that administrators found my delivery models and strategies worthy of replication in their own districts.

The best part came next, though.  They started to give me advice.  In true edcamp style, the session became a discussion, and the experts in the room began sharing experiences from their own districts.  They wanted to help me avoid pitfalls and be successful in my new vocation.  The learning I had come for – had craved – was happening as a result of my topic and the collegiality of educational professionals who care!

Here are a few of the extremely valuable revelations they shared:

  • Have critical discussions with different administrators first.  Often a tech integration specialist works under several different principals and supervisors.  My friend Rich Czyz (@RACzyz), a NJ principal and former instructional coach, said that it’s really important to see what each building leader expects and to get a feel for the culture of each school.  It’s also important to work with the principal/supervisor to establish how things will be presented to staff, what expectations will be for all involved, and how we can support each other to improve technology integration in the school.
    • One great example involves how to approach teachers who are reluctant to welcome any ‘coach’ into their room…will the principal have that discussion with those teachers and pave the way?  Does the supervisor prefer that no “push-in” coaching is done without an invitation by the teacher?
  • Be clear with staff about what Technology Integration Specialists DON’T do, too.  I loved this advice because I hadn’t considered it – and it’s important.  One supervisor in the room said that teachers in his school had taken advantage of the fact that another adult was entering the room.  Some teachers sat at their desks to grade papers; others actually left the room!  In his district, the administrators intervened and explained to the staff that when any ‘coach’ enters the room, it is to help that teacher via new learning, practice, or support.  He explained that it is critical to establish this expectation (with administrative support) to every teacher.  He also advised that I stay firm if/when teachers may try to take advantage, and to not make exceptions.  “Be rigidly consistent” was the exact advice.
  • Let teachers know that a Tech Integration Specialist is NOT any type of administrator.  This was great advice, too!  Many teachers get nervous or even resentful another adult coming into their classrooms.  One principal told me that it’s really important to get the word out from the get-go that I will never conduct an observation or be judgmental in any way.  Classroom teachers and tech integration specialists are compatible (lateral) positions.  She advised that I repeat that fact early and often.

As you can see, I left with new insights, new knowledge, and new ideas.  Perhaps I started as a presenter, but I finished as a learner.   I also ended up with some new contacts and remarkable connections.  I’d say that’s growth, and I know that’s exactly the kind of gift that edcamps make possible.

 

If you have any other advice for me –  or thoughts, comments, or opinions, I hope you’ll take the time to comment.  You can reach me here at my blog (kerszi.wordpress.com), on Twitter at @kerszi, or follow my Facebook page, which is called Integration Innovation.

 

A Technology Infuser

I came across this picture on Pinterest the other day, and it swirled around in my mind for a bit until now.


It’s a tea infuser.  You put whatever blend of tea leaves you enjoy in that infuser, and lower it into the hot water until your tea reaches the desired strength.

This is very much my philosophy as someone who helps teachers with technology.  The privilege is called by different names – a tech coach, tech trainer, tech integrationist, or.. I propose… a tech infuser.

First, tech infusers need to realize that for many reasons, they may be approaching hot water.  Teachers are sometimes reluctant to try new things, have a general insecurity about technology, or be uncomfortable having someone come into their rooms to offer help.  

The water itself also symbolizes ‘normal’ classroom instruction.  Guess what…sometimes water is exactly the ‘taste’ that’s needed in a classroom.  Sometimes it works just fine.  Sometimes, plain old water is really the perfect thing.  But not always.  Not for today’s learners.

Sometimes, a little more flavor is needed.  Sometimes, a lot more flavor is needed.  That’s where a tech infuser can do the most magic.  He or she can bring so many varieties of tea to show a teacher!  She can give tastings in the form of demo lessons.  He can observe a lesson, get a flavor for what’s going on, suggest a few ideas and – let them steep.  She can brainstorm with the teacher and prepare special blends – for any occasion!  

Here are five things that really great tech infusers do beautifully:

1) Really know their tea!  Know lots of teas, stay current on the latest teas & be creative with cool new ways to blend them.  

2) Go in gently.  Sometimes a subtle dip is just the right way to get those who’ve never drank the tea accustomed to the taste.  

3) Know balance.  Know when plain water will do the trick, when a gentle infusion is called for, and when a mighty strong infusion might just be a complete zinger!

4) Let things steep. Sometimes it takes awhile for a taste or a flavor to really develop.  Let it steep, but come back to check every once in awhile until it appears ready.


5) Have tea parties!  Let all of those who have developed a taste for infusion come together & celebrate!  Be sure to invite those reluctant ones to the party, too, to hear how delicious it can be to infuse a little variety into their TEA-ching!

No Phone, No Tablet, No Problem – Scan QR Codes With Your Computer

This is a ridiculously simple blog post, but one that might really come in handy for those of you who still don’t have a lot of handheld or mobile computing devices like smartphones or iPads.  You can scan QR codes using a webcam on a regular computer!

The site is called Web QR and the URL is just as simple:  https://webqr.com/

There’s really no explanation needed.  This is what the site looks like:

web qr

That’s it.  Hold your QR code up to your webcam. It will appear in that gray box and automatically scan….which will take you to your desired site on the web!

One other nice feature about this site is that it also allows you to create a QR code.  Just click on the word Create at the top and then enter a web address (URL).

Happy scanning!

 

Tech Playdates – Try Sump’n New

As I reported on Twitter in 140 characters or less:  I tried sump’n new this week.  I hosted a little very informal, very unstructured,  and very welcoming event which I dubbed a “Tech Playdate”.  It was pretty much a Professional Learning Community in disguise, but we had too much fun to even realize that!

I’m always looking for new ways to get teachers excited about Purposeful And Relevant Technology Integration (PARTI). I’ve tried PD sessions during the day, little after-school workshops, putting resources online, and even stopping into classes to see if I can help facilitate lessons with tech.  This time, the goal was different, and it was simple:  provide lots of  food, invite lots of people, make it as unassuming and casual as possible, don’t call it professional development, DON’T have a presentation or agenda, and let the people in the room dictate what happens.

Oh, and have it after school, for no stipend or reimbursement, no credit…and just see who is curious or ambitious enough to come.

First, I ran the idea past a group of amazing teachers with whom I spent a week during a summer technology institute.  They loved the idea of being able to continue learning ed tech together, especially with no strings (or mandates) attached.  They helped me by completing a quick little survey to see which days and times would work best, and for us that turned out to be Wednesdays or Thursdays from 4-7.   I picked a bunch of Tech Playdate dates for the rest of the year, ran the idea through administrative channels, got the okay, and developed this invitation:

techplaydatememo

The approved invitation was sent out to all seven elementary school principals, and from there it was sent out to staff.  I asked for an RSVP for this one (because pizza was involved), and about 20 people said they’d come!  I was pretty elated with that response, as this was a great unknown and it involved after-school travel for many.

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The turnout was accurate!  We had 20 people, representing six of the elementary schools and two administrators.  For a first try, this was not only impressive, but a revelation.  Clearly, there is a desire for folks to learn & explore ed tech, and evidently informality and choice are critical components.  Teachers are craving this.

StickyNoteCharts

The photo above was the most critical part of planning the Tech Playdate.  It couldn’t be a “sit & git” presentation-style PD session.   There would be nobody at ‘the front of the room’ …no presenters.  I really wanted it to be participant-driven, where everyone was invited to share or learn, and there was no fear in asking questions – any questions.  I set up these three posters on a table and put some sticky notes nearby.  I suggested that attendees fill out a note and try to find a ‘sticky-note buddy’ that matched their needs.  There were knowledgeable people in the room who were empowered to share what they knew, and there were people (myself included) who just wanted to try learning something new with someone else.  All kinds of beautiful sharing and learning ensued….it was collegiality & collaboration at its best!

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Alicia (left) learned about Plickers at our summer technology institute.  She became the expert, and was more than happy to teach Kelsey all about it!  Alicia was ready to share all kinds of wonderful things that she learned during the summer and had since been trying in her classroom:  draggo, Quizizz, Google Forms, and more!

LisaJan

These two ambitious teachers wanted time (How often do we hear that?) to work on their teacher pages on the school website.  They both liked just being in a room where there was support and other people with the same questions…and their teacher pages are really awesome!

CathyKim

These ladies were amazing in their zest to learn new things!  They not only supported each other, but asked a ton of great questions and we all learned new things from their questions.  Together, they explored a site called Curriculet so that they could develop great Reading lessons for their classes, but then they wanted to know more from people in the room:  how to take screenshots and edit them, how to make word clouds, and how to earn Ed Tech Digital Badges that are now used in our district!

JimMary

Mary heard about Plickers, too, and James was more than happy to teach her about it!  She had time and support to set up all of her classes, create folders, and start to set up questions.  By the time she left, Mary had an activity she could use the next day.

 Jim

One teacher came ready to share all about a site called GoNoodle, but didn’t get a chance during this first Tech Playdate.  Hold that thought for next time.  Another teacher didn’t get the opportunity yet to show people about coding with kids, and someone else is still willing to teach about Symbaloo!  Great!  It looks like we have an awesome starter list for next month!

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Ambitious Rich came with the hope that he could learn web design!  Luckily, there was someone in the room who was willing to share all about a site called Weebly, which allows for very user-friendly, very beautiful website creation!

RichMeriLinda

Linda’s sticky-note just said that she wanted to learn how to ‘work with pictures’.  She was interested in learning how to upload, crop, edit, and get creative with her photographs.  Lo and behold, there was someone in the room who knew that, too!  This time, it was my brilliant friend Meredith Martin from a neighboring district, who”‘crashed the tech playdate” just because she loves this kind of learning, too!   Linda and others got some very cool lessons on how to use Sumo Paint!

MikeAnneLisaJan

You know it’s a REAL playdate when the principal comes to play!

food

TBH, for our first Tech Playdate, this might have been part of the lure.  This plus seven pizzas.  I wanted to have a very homey and welcoming feeling for this first one, so – uh – food!   The gang decided that now that we’re all friendly, techy buddies, we’re going potluck for the next one!  Everyone’s bringing a treat to share with the class!

Oh, and everyone’s bringing other colleagues who will enjoy a Tech Playdate, too!  This thing’s going viral, and I hope that this kind of informal, free, no-accountability, exploratory, collaborative, playful learning becomes the ultimate ‘computer virus’!

For local friends:  The next Tech Playdate is October 28 from 4-7.  No RSVP needed. 

This May Be One Of The Greatest Websites Of All Time!!!

This may be one of the greatest websites of all time.  I’m very serious.

If you have kids, you are going to love this site. If your kids ever said “I’m bored” this summer, you are REALLY going to love this site.  If you have a creative side at all, you are going to love this site because it’s not just for kids.  If you’re into that whole ‘maker’ thing, oh dear – you’re going to need to sit down before you read this post.  If you’re a teacher, well….take a deep breath, dive in, and just KNOW that you’re going to introduce this to your students during the first week of school and parents will hug your face on back to school night!  If you are an over-the-top adventurous, innovative, awesomesauce teacher, you’ll have a class account set up before school even starts!

((((((( drum roll  ))))))

The site is called diy.org.  Yup, it’s that simple.  That unpretentious.  How did I not know about this before?

diylogo

Here’s the gist of the site:

1) You look up stuff to do.

2) You do the stuff.

3) You post something about the stuff you did.

4) You earn a patch.

I have just completely oversimplified this amazing site, but I wanted you to feel like this is easy, and fun, and something you can start doing right now!  I know you’re itching to get started, but please, please bear with me as I explain DIY.org in a little more detail.

1) You look up stuff to do:  From hundreds and hundreds of ALL KINDS of activities.  I’m not kidding when I say there is something for everyone here.  Screenshot time – just look at the patches you can earn:

diypatches1diypatches2diypatches3diypatches4

diypatches5diypatches6diypatches7diypatches8

diypatches9diypatches10diypatches13diypatches12

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***I had absolutely NO intention of posting pix of EVERY single patch, but I couldn’t stop myself!  I told you this site has something for everyone!  (And they keep adding…these people at DIY.org are incredible!)

2)  You do the stuff:  Pick a patch that interests you and go for it!  I like to bake, so I went for the baker patch. You’ll see in the photo below that the patch is in the 3rd spot.  I need to do 3 challenges in this category to earn the DIY.org patch.  But if you look a little lower in the photo, you’ll see that there are FIFTEEN options for challenges, and they really range in difficulty!  Even better, for each option there are little videos submitted by other DIYers to instruct or motivate you!

diybakerpatch

3.  You post something about the stuff you did:  Many sites call this ‘submitting evidence’.  When you’re done baking your bread, making a duct-tape wallet, starting a rock collection, scrapbooking, producing a radio interview, or hiking – just upload a photo or video to show that you actually did it!  (Mom & Dad, you get an instant email whenever your child submits something. You can always edit it or delete it.)

diypendingreview

4.  You earn a patch!  At first, your submission (evidence)  is pending review by real humans, but then it gets approved, you get an email, and you’re on your way to earning a patch!  Remember, you must do three challenges in any category before you’re patch-worthy.

Okay, so you’re sold.  I knew you would be.  You probably have your eye on about a half dozen of those beautiful patches, right?  You’re already mentally pairing people you know with patches…I do that, too!

BUT before you go…..I have a few really valuable tips that you might want to read first:

  • Is it safe?  Well, they’ve thought of everything.  Here’s what their site has to say:  “DIY is a safe setting for your kids to try social media, get feedback, and be inspired by a community of peers. Every member’s privacy is carefully monitored by a staff of moderators. No real names or faces are shown without parental permission. Comments are allowed, but jerks and bullies are not.”   Note from me: When I signed up for a kid account, it required an email be sent to a parent, and then even credit card info provided (NOT charged) as proof of actual adult-ness!
  • Create a family/class account: Rather than having individual accounts, skip the competition between your kids and encourage the collaboration.   Everybody can work together to be a part of the success!  Create a shared account with a shared password.  You’ll feel safer, it’s easier to manage, and it’s a great bonding thing!
  • Skip the camps:  You’ll see prompts that offer specialized camps for $10.  I believe these are probably excellent based on the quality of this site, but there is SO MUCH FREE STUFF that I encourage you to live in & explore the DIY.org world before you start paying.  Maybe next summer if little Johnny BEGS for that robotics camp…?
  • Get the app:  All the info is on the app, and it’s great to have it with you wherever you go!  It also makes taking a photo or video for submission so much easier.  When Suzie catches her first fish for the angler badge, shoot a quick vid, upload it right from your phone, and you’re on your way!

Okay, so I leave you with this…my favorite patch, and the one I’m best at by far.

diychiller

I’m Kerszi, and I’ll see you on DIY.org!

As always, I love feedback & sharing!  You can send your thoughts & ideas here on WordPress, to @kerszi on Twitter, or follow My Primary Techspiration on Facebook.