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Reflections of a First Year Technology Coordinator: Part I

Caroline Haebig, Instructional Technology Coordinator at Adlai E. Stevenson High School, in Lincolnshire, IL
Caroline Haebig, Instructional Technology Coordinator, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, IL

Caroline Haebig is the 2012 International Society for Technology in Education Outstanding Young Educator. She participated in the recent online virtual forum Creating a Culture of Learning, which was held on November 14, 2012. Below, you’ll find the first part of her reflections on being a technology coordinator. To hear more digital literacy conversations like the one below, RSVP now for the upcoming virtual forum, Assessing Digital Literacy: Outcomes and Impact, which will be held on December 11, 2012, at 7:00p.m. EST.

It’s official– I’ve moved into the realm of technology coordination.  Despite being fresh in my new role as a high school instructional technology coordinator, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some productive feedback and I’ve taken time to step back and critically reflect on my new role and the person I aim to be in this new capacity.

I’ve quickly learned some significant things when it comes to adult professional learning.  I challenge anyone who works with adult learners to think more deeply about how they work with faculty and staff.

Being in a technology leadership position sometimes makes it easy to get wrapped up in people’s expectation that you are the person who allegedly “has the answers,” the champion of putting out daily tech fires, and planning long term professional development. I believe as teacher, leaders we must slow the conversation down at times and focus our practice. These are just some conclusions I’ve drawn from my early experiences as an emerging technology coordinator.

Sometimes you don’t want an App for that.

Today’s current and emerging tools and technologies are able to assist us in constructing more efficient, student centered and authentic learning environments more than ever before. Yet as these tools become more accessible, as one to one and bring your own device policies become more prevalent, I’m finding that there is a growing need to remind our teachers, our administrators and even us as technology leaders that it is simply not about the tools. While I’ll admit I love learning more about new gadgets, apps and features, I am constantly pushing myself to keep instructional goals at the center of my thinking.  This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people just want to know the names of the latest apps, or tout how many interactive white boards they have in their buildings.

Whether it is working with teachers on an individual basis or running large-scale professional learning sessions, I always start the conversation by identifying the thinking behaviors we want our students to engage in.  It is easy for people to lose sight of their instructional goals or fall short when constructing lessons that would facilitate students in engaging higher-level thinking. The conversation about technology must be centered on the teacher’s instructional goals and student outcomes.  I would encourage technology facilitators and coordinators to make sure to guide the conversation back to student learning, because when people seek out the “tech-guru” they may loose sight of the overall purpose for the technology.

Take the time to listen.

Just because you think you can finish someone’s sentence doesn’t mean you should. This is something that can be hard to do for several reasons. Perhaps sometimes people unconsciously feel they need to “prove” that they are credible by sharing their examples and experiences with others. In retrospect I’ve realized that maybe I thought that sharing anecdotes from my own classroom experiences might make me more relatable to the teachers with whom I’m working. Initially, I thought that sharing these real-life classroom challenges and experiences I survived might make it easier for teachers to see how technology can be used successfully in the classroom. I now understand that my approach may create an equally opposite reaction than what I intended.

After I taught my first intensive summer professional development course, two instructional coaches gave some constructive advice. They reminded me that people don’t want to hear examples from that “teacher you used to be” or that perhaps just because I may think I know where someone’s thinking is going, I have to give them the time to get their thoughts, ideas, and questions out. To me, this sounds like the good old fashion wait time I worked so hard to be aware of when working with my former students. People are people, and learners are learners no matter where they may be in their career or age they are. I’m learning that it is important for teachers to be able to feel safe, empowered and encouraged. In order to create this type of environment and strong relationships with adult learners, I need to slow down, listen more closely, and not be so overzealous to find a solution or rush to solve my teachers’ problems.

Personalized Professional Learning

One of the most challenging (and exciting) aspects of being an instructional technology coordinator is learning how to identify, create and offer relevant professional learning opportunities. The best types of professional development I’ve engaged in provided me with problem solving strategies, which allowed me to leave knowing how to concretely implement a specific instructional strategy, and make my life better by helping me to plan and avoid blunders because of someone else’s shared anticipatory problem solving or previous experiences.
The task of creating successful professional development is challenging because adult learners are just as diverse as the student learners with whom we work.
We must identify ways to meet people where they are and create meaningful personalized learning opportunities to meet diverse technology experience expertise and comfort.

Join the Action

How am I taking on the task of supporting educators while we face a rapidly growing 1:1 iPad program? I’ve started by observing teachers in action; I’ve engaged in many conversations with a variety of educators about the strengths, limitations, and questions teachers face when integrating technology. After synthesizing what I think would make these teachers lives easier, bolster instruction, and create more authentic learning experiences for students from the information I’ve gathered I created five different options for receiving professional development.  The common thread among all of these different opportunities is that they all take a collaborative approach to creating, evaluating and elaborating on how we are using technology to support and transform instructional practices. Instructional targets are at the center of all my conversations. Further, I believe it is important to help teachers explore ways to manage workflow (students and their own), and to create ways to execute meaningful formative assessment. We must redefine how teachers can use technology to engage students in higher-level thinking. Current and emerging technologies easily allow users to produce creative products not possible before.

Align objectives and action items with others

Our teacher iPad program started when the iPad first came out. In short, teachers were able to choose to opt in, engage in iPad training, design a lesson incorporating the iPad and then have access to check out an iPad cart. In moving forward, our administration has decided to begin a 1:1 iPad program and create an instructional technology coordinator position (me) to support teachers in this new environment, and with other emerging technologies.

At this point iPad professional development engagement is still mostly voluntary; teachers choose to sign up for one of my short courses, and are provided with a substitute teacher to enable them to attend.  In order be most efficient I’ve designed collaboration formats and small group professional learning opportunities. By  working closely with teachers and department administrators we collaboratively  tailor the sessions to the target content area and around teacher comfort levels with technology.  These collaborations are just the beginning of my efforts to meet the diverse needs of our adult learners.

The second installment of this blog will address how Haebig is creating personalized learning opportunities for faculty, incorporating modeling to support adult learners and embedding reflection into learning processes.

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Marijke Visser

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