This post marks a very important transition for me and my family. I am wrapping up my time in Birdville and moving on to a new role as Director of Digital Learning in Seguin, Texas. I’m extremely excited about the new opportunity, although I will miss my incredible co-workers and fellow educators in the district that has been my home basically since the age of 8, including 19 as a teacher and technology specialist. It has been an incredible honor and pleasure to work alongside each of you. I am proud to have been a small part of some great accomplishments and innovative practices, but I recognize that you all did the heavy lifting. I’ve taken away far more than I could ever have given back. To Kelli, Dwight, Jeff, Cheryl, Karen, Teresa, Crysten, Deborah, Denise, Paula, Lynette, Jon, Jeff, Janice, Matt, and Scott, in particular: you’ve given me lofty targets to shoot for in my new position, and I hope you realize how incredible you really are. Thank you for your friendship and your patience. Best wishes for incredible success, God bless you all, and please keep in touch! Give me a holler if you want to hit the river and grab some Q!
A change in leadership is always an interesting experience. It’s also a great opportunity for self-assessment and adjusting your direction and focus. This is very descriptive of this year in Birdville, as we have a new superintendent and several other members of the leadership team (or, more accurately, the “cabinet”). As expected, our new leaders are examining every program that is in place in the district, evaluating its merits, costs, needs, and direction. We are utilizing the opportunity to refine our methods in the Instructional Technology team, something that’s probably overdue. We’ve dwindled from 12 strong down to 7, moved from our technology department to curriculum, and worked with several different administrators in the past 9+ years.
As a result of our reorganization, I will be working primarily with elementary schools this year (5 of them, to be exact). I’ll also support our district’s librarians and fine arts teachers, train and support webmasters, and continue to try and keep up with the emerging technologies, especially Web 2.0 varieties. I’m very excited about the year. I have an elementary background originally, spending my first six years in the business in elementary classrooms. It will be exciting getting expanded opportunities to work with younger students and our fantastic elementary teachers. As for the librarians and fine arts folks, I absolutely look forward to working with the “keepers” of information and creativity–I can’t imagine a more perfect group to work with.
Finally, I’ll also be working closely with elementary math and science curriculum specialists. My role will be evolving, but it is certain to include serving as a go-to resource for science and math teachers who wish to integrate technology into their classroom practice. I’ll also be working to add these types of resources and lesson plans to our district curriculum documents.
All in all, I’m anticipating a challenging but rewarding year and a great opportunity to work with an expanded team of educators.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/broken_simulacra/103802259/
Who says that teaching stops when the bell rings? Josh Grizzelle, a 5th grade science teacher here in Birdville, is using Web 2.0 tools to take advantage of “teachable moments” whenever and wherever they occur. Among the tools Josh is using:
- WetPaint wiki–This serves as Josh’s class website and hub of student information. The wiki includes curriculum information, assignments, student video projects, external links, videos for reviewing concepts, class materials, discussion threads, and more.
- YouTube channel–One of the coolest things about the resources Josh has made available to his students is that most were created by either Josh himself or his students. On his YouTube channel, visitors can see examples where Josh took advantage of opportunities such as a lizard he encountered locally, a trip to Yellowstone, or an expedition to the Big Bend area of south Texas. Rather than letting such events pass by, he used a video camera to create a teaching tool, passing on knowledge to his students as he learned it.
- Student videos–Assessment is, of course, an ever-present reality. In our district, focuses on programs such as Continuous Improvement place even greater (excessive might be more accurate) emphasis on assessment. Students can grow numb to the repetitive pre-testing, formative testing, and post-testing. In Mr. Grizzelle’s classroom, students are given the opportunity to forego the paper-and-pencil drill each six weeks period. Rather, they create videos to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts. The videos are hosted on Josh’s YouTube channel and embedded into his class wiki.
Josh’s students are applying and gaining many critical, 21st century skills, including media literacy, creativity, collaboration, communication, initiative/self-direction, etc. They are also very likely to be much more motivated to create and use technology-rich, real-world products, as opposed to the resigned compliance so typical of many students being force-fed traditional curriculums, assignments, and assessments. The level of technical ability required to do the things Josh is doing is relatively small, by the way. The main commitment is the time it takes to do initial setup (of the wiki and YouTube channel), ongoing maintenance (similar to writing lesson plans, creating materials, etc.), and some time to edit/publish video projects. The payoffs include engaged, highly-achieving students and a wealth of resources available 24/7.