Each year my school district asks graduating seniors to reflect on three questions: who am I, where am I going, and how will I get there? Since I graduated from the district in which I am now employed, I too have been asked to answer these questions both as a student and as an educator. I find that, while a bit lofty, they offer a holistic yet simple means for reflection. So, for my spring quarter for the Digital Education Leadership (DEL) program, I chose to ponder who I am, where I am going, and how I will get there in regards to being an effective instructor and leader in regards to digital education.
To accompany this reflection, I chose to create a mind map as I could not think of a better tool to comprehensively represent what I have learned and to logically connect ideas. I decided to try out Mindmeister, rather than Coggle, so I could still gain experience with a new digital tool. I actually really liked this platform because it allows users to add images and videos easily with the free membership. It was also a bit more user-friendly with it’s simple tool bar and I find the finished product more attractive. An added plus is that it is cloud based and easy to use with students!
Who am I?
Four years ago, I began teaching in a high school with three computer labs 2,000 students. They were exactly the same as they had been when I graduated four years prior. The rooms were often booked weeks in advance and it was difficult to get consecutive days in a row. If I was lucky enough to reserve a room, the desktop computers took several minutes to startup and shutdown and, paired with a slow applications, it felt like more class time was wasted then used for learning. At the time, students saved their work through complicated networks and most assignments had to assume that no technology was available, greatly limiting possibilities. The end of that year however saw a drastic shift when teachers started receiving Chromebooks and technology training crept into the staff meetings previously dedicated to lock down procedures and evaluation processes.
The following fall was met with greater enthusiasm for digital learning as teachers began discovering new tools and sharing their successes. As Chromebook carts started showing up in classrooms, students also advocated for the value of technology by demonstrating how they used it to redefine their learning. Seeing how quickly and drastically technology was changing the classroom environment, I realized it was imperative to become a digitally competent teacher myself. I eagerly attended workshops and trainings offered by my district and tried out tools in my classroom at any chance I got. This ultimately led to me becoming a technology leader my district.
With the rapid increase in technology, there has been a high demand for professional development relating to technology. Because of this, my district has adapted our trainings into online modules which educators can complete at any time for clock hours. Our tech mentor committee shares ideas through monthly meetings and daily communications in our Google Plus community. We attend trainings, such as the National Council for Computer Education, and host professional learning opportunities like Edcamp. Every teacher now has a Chromebook, is able to use their Google Drive, and all students are issues Chromebooks. Boy, have we come a long way!
Going into teaching, I expected my focus would lie on English curriculum and instruction–the notion of being a technology leader did not cross my mind. Yet, I did not foresee that technology instruction would become so integral to every subject, nor could I have predicted how quickly it would redefine teaching. My choice to refocus was partially pragmatic, but more so I have learned the field of digital education is full of innovative and enthusiastic educators and endless possibilities. This is what led me to join the DEL program at SPU, where I have now completed a year of study more valuable than I could have anticipated.
Where am I Going?
Having already found myself in a technology leadership role in my district, I started the DEL program eager to quickly learn how to advance that role. Instead, and rightfully so, the program started out by having our cohort discuss ethical and moral issues relating to educational technology and online behavior. We then explored the ISTE student and teacher standards before more recently looking into the coaching standards. This pre-teaching was completely necessary to help me build my foundation as a digital citizen, and a vital step before looking at what it means to be a digital education leader. With that said, I was very excited when we began discussing coaching standards so I could begin addressing some of the questions I have. The questions I have are outlined below and the “how will I get there” section details what I will do to begin trying to answer them.
- How can the professional development in my district differentiate to meet the needs of various educators, across grade levels, subject areas, and varying degrees of technology abilities?
- How can we motivate those that are hesitant technology users to “buy in” more? In other words, what can we do to make sure educators are not feeling isolated or left behind in terms of digital education?
- How can we create a more comprehensive “hub” for students to access digital tools? Currently, teachers use various digital platforms which can be very complicated for students.
- How can I prepare myself as a technology leader so I can effectively work with educators who teach different subjects or grade levels that those that I have experience with?
How Will I get There?
The steps that I will take to reach my goals are as follows:
- I will continue to familiarize myself with the ISTE teacher, student, and coaching standards.
- I intend to explore the questions outlined in the “where am I going” in the upcoming courses of the DEL program.
- I would like to attend NCCE again next year along with one or two other conventions or workshops that involve educators beyond just my district.
- At the EdCamp my district is hosting this summer, I intend on hosting a session on global collaborative projects to begin a discussion about them in my district and to gather ideas and interested teachers to collaborate with. Next year, I will conduct another global collaborative project that is indeed more global. I will also have students revise on all writing assignments and try to arrange that they share their writing with students from several other classrooms.
- I will adapt a few projects so they rely more heavily on digital tools. I will provide opportunities for students to use these tools, with some choice on what they use, and share their work with others. I think that this will help staff see the value in embracing digital education–students are great advocates!
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