Tag Archives: pedagogy

The Shifting Role of the Tech Integrator

Here’s a snapshot of a typical day in my life as an integrator:

Zip down to classroom 1 to put out apple TV fire. Respond to 3 emails from students who can’t remember their Educate passwords. Touch base with teacher using GoogleForms for feedback. Respond to text from assistant principal to check student’s use of laptop. Show up late for meeting with a teacher about how they can improve collaborative techniques using technology. Beg forgiveness and begin the “tool pitch.” Return call to frantic 7th-grade parent who is concerned about Facebook activity…

You get it. More often than not, an integrator’s job is to  react to change. Sometimes it’s big change- a new LMS or a new model of teaching. Most often it’s small, “just in time” help that gets a teacher or a student over a small hump and back on track. We listen to teachers when they say “I wish I had a tool that…” and review new tools with an eye to where they might best fit in different content areas and learning environments.

My job description tasks me with improving teaching and learning through the use of technology. This means I have to stay on top of the tools available to enhance the learning process, stay educated about best practices in pedagogy and the district’s direction, and develop professional development for teachers that is largely voluntary and rarely attended. This isn’t to say that teachers don’t want to learn- on the contrary, they often speak about wanting to use technology to improve engagement and understanding. What they lack is a 30-hour day within which to fit me in.

Technology has played a large role in our change and I am proud of our staff for the way they have embraced change and learned new skills in order to provide better opportunities for their students to have “voice and choice” in their learning. That said, my job has gotten harder and harder the deeper we get into proficiency-based learning.

It used to be easy. Teachers who were doing days of whole class instruction had the luxury of allowing me to come in and demonstrate something like Kahoot as a review tool or how to properly use presentation software. Now it’s different. In a class of 20 students, you may have four or five different levels and learning targets going on at once. The teacher is now a facilitator, students are working on personalized learning pathways, and I am on the outside looking in.

When a school changes, everyone changes. How the administration uses their integrators needs to change as well. Here’s why:

Integrators are teachers first

More often than not, integrators have been classroom teachers. We understand that tools and strategies just have to work. Because of our classroom experience, we can “vet” tools for ease of use and come up with strategies that will lessen issues – like developing password protocols and recognizing tools that might not work well with networks. And, because we are teachers first, we have the necessary understanding of pedagogy and scaffolding when it comes to finding tools and resources that move learning forward rather than merely entertain students.

Integrators know the staff

By the very nature of the job, integrators develop personal relationships with almost all of the staff. We know their interests and their classroom struggles. Some even let us in on their fears. For the most part, teachers trust us to be on their side. Most everyone knows who is resistant to change on a faculty.  Integrators often know why. Knowledge of this resistance provides insight into how we can structure professional development prior to the implementation of changes so we have more buy-in.

Integrators are collaborators

Most integrators have a curated personal learning network of innovative educators who are available 24/7 to vet ideas and offer advice and experience. This wealth of experience saves time and frustration as we learn from each other’s successes and struggles. Very often, integrators enlist teams of students to vet tools and provide feedback about how they think they will work in the classroom.

Changing the role of the Integrator

Most integrators are both small-change agents (at the classroom level) and reactors to systemic change at the building level. Rarely are they involved by administrators at either level to look at how they could become contributors in meeting the larger scale yearly goals of districts and individual buildings.

Here’s how it usually works: September comes and everyone is full of energy. I’ve been to a conference or two and have some ideas of ways I think technology can help in a couple of classrooms. I meet with teachers and offer my pitch. They are enthusiastic as well but already have their plans in place and this new idea feels like an add-on. “I’ll think about it,” is about as far as we get.

Here’s how it COULD work (and I risk the wrath of integrators everywhere with this one). What if my 180-day contract could be fulfilled anytime between one September and another? What if I could sit down with teachers as they are planning in the summer and work to turn technology into teach-nology? September is a bad time to make changes. July and August are GREAT times to look at how to do things better.

Teachers can receive professional contact hours during this time so they don’t feel as though they are working “for free.” I adjust my contracted schedule to reflect the number of days I work during the school year (there is no sub when I am out). No cost to the district.

We should be working closely with our curriculum coordinators to see how teach-nology fits best with district goals. If improving writing scores is a building or district goal for the year, what are the tools that will support that best- and how do we provide professional development that pairs pedagogy with tool mastery for resulting best practices? What scaffolded learning activities can we support with technology at each level so technology use becomes more effective? By focusing our efforts at a more global level, we create a community of practice that works to support all learners- even teachers.



Tech Integrator Tip: How to Successfully Not Know It All

I have to admit that I have come a long way in my 14 years of teaching and guiding technology use. In my early days I struggled to know everything I needed to teach, and to make it rigorous and full of depth. Usually I just made it hard and confusing- for both me and my students.

Now that I’m “of a certain age” I have given myself permission to “Not Know It All” and be good at it. Yesterday was a good example of it (and one that worked out really well) so I thought I’d share a bit of what happened.

I am a tech integrator with a degree in horse training. I’m a good problem solver and pretty savvy- but there is a lot I don’t know. So, in the past, when the kids and parents asked if I could teach programming, I put them off without really telling them them that I could sooner teach them how to build a backhoe.

This year’s Hour of Code gave me a chance to provide a coding opportunity for the MS/HS community.  In a nutshell, the Hour of Code is a program running during Computer Science Education Week. It’s sponsored by Code.org. They provide tutorials for different kinds of coding that are geared towards kids in a number of areas. The goal was to get 10 million kids worldwide to do one hour of coding during this week.

The directions from the site suggested choosing one of their tutorials, going through it so you’d be familiar with the process and could help the kids, and then presenting it to the kids at the Hour of Code event. I did the first part (and discovered 30 years too late how much I like programming…) but decided not to limit them to what MY experience was.

Instead, I showed an introductory video (I liked “What Most Schools Don’t Teach“) and then had the kids log in. From there, they moved to a table that had the sign for the tutorial they wanted to do. Topics were varied- learning Javascript, Designing a Game, Scratch, and Building an IOS App among them. With this model, kids could work through the tutorials with other kids who were working on the same thing. They instinctively asked each other for help- and sometimes, because we had both middle school and high school kids together, the high school experts left what they were doing to troubleshoot with their younger colleagues.

Had I been the one who had to “own” the information, very little learning would have occurred- for ANY of us. As it was, each kid worked at the pace that worked for them, getting just the help they needed when they needed it it. I wish I could share the way their faces lit up when they had their (many) AHA moments.

I’ll for sure put this model at the top of my toolbox.

KISS Model for Integrators

Keep it Simple logoAn integrator’s job is just plain fun most of the time. We get to read, explore, play, and we get SO excited when we come upon a tool that looks like it would be JUST PERFECT for teachers and students. In my case (having a high energy level and boundless enthusiasm for tech), this happens daily. What a great job!

What used to come as a surprise for me was that not everyone shared my excitement when I ran to them with the next best thing since sliced bread. It made me step back and remember that in order to be effective as an integrator, I have to remember that I have to see these tools through the teachers’ eyes. They have a whole slew of concerns OTHER than technology integration and engagement. They have time constraints…platform issues (we are seeing a small increase in students who choose to bring their own laptops rather than getting one from the school) and concerns about monitoring how students use these tools.

As I look at tools for teachers, I now apply the KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) model:

  • Will the tool require kids to create accounts?
  • Will they remember their passwords when it come time to use it?
  • Is the time required to learn the tool worth the loss of instructional time?
  • Is there apt to be advertising that is inappropriate for younger students? (Funny story – one “private” social networking site I tried out had ads for dating services!)

As an integrator, you have to know your audience. Teachers (and students) are more apt to use tools that are easy to access, easy to learn, and easy to remember how to use. This simple guideline has changed the way I approach integration this year.  Now I look for tools that can be used in many different content areas and are flexible and customizeable.

One of the best I’ve found is GoogleApps for Education. It’s been around for quite a while, announced first during the Educause conference in 2006. I’ve been playing with it for almost a year and will go into more depth in future posts about how we use it. Here’s how it fits my new integration model:

  • students and teachers already have accounts. No “sign up” necessary- and there are people in the building who manage accounts, so forgotten passwords are not crisis creators.
  • The features of the tool are easy to use and intuitive to learn. Teachers only need to use the tools they need, not the whole gamut.
  • Students that are familiar with one piece of the tool easily migrate to other aspects.

In other words, teachers  can focus on the content and pedagogy and NOT the technology. The technology truly supports the learning, rather than being the centerpiece of the lesson. 

Another benefit? Here’s what happened in our district. One teacher did an activity using GoogleApps and liked it (as did the kids). News of her success spread to another teacher who decided to try it too. Because they shared some of the same students, she found she had ready made local experts in her classroom who were able to help teach the technology to each other. Voila! Instructional time restored. 

Does this mean that we don’t consider more specialized tools? Absolutely not; however, the smart integrator recognizes that bringing technology to an organization is like building a house. The foundation isn’t fancy- it is strong and dependable. Once it is set, THEN you can begin to customize. Get your foundation in- then have fun with the customization.