As an instructional technology specialist, most often my teaching is less formal and structured than a traditional classroom teacher. I have found that over the past year with the many variations in learning – from starting fully remote, to hybrid learning for most of the year, and then (almost) fully back with all staff and students in the spring – there have been so many different challenges facing students, teachers, and families.
Some of the more consistent relationships I have developed over the course of the past year has been:
- A retired teacher came back to teach one period of Spanish 1 for some of our 8th grade students. An experienced and more “traditional” teacher, she was forced to use all sorts of digital tools that she would otherwise not have, including Zoom, Flipgrid, and Google Classroom. There was a lot of handholding, but that lessened after a while, and she was able to start adapting her traditional ways and exploring new ways to interact with, teach, and develop relationships with her students.
- We have a number of (aging) SMARTboards in our district that some teachers use on a regular basis. Over the course of the years, they’ve developed a series of lessons that rely on the SMARTnotebook technology and had to be adapted to online learning. So, we worked on switching those lessons over to a combination of Google Slides and Pear Deck so they could accomplish similar goals with students without the use of the interactive panel.
- Parent and Student communication has been very different over the course of the past year, with evening parent meetings, in-person Parent-Teacher Conferences, and student assemblies all needing to happen virtually. My relationships with administration throughout the district, as well as secretaries, guidance staff, and others have all grown because of the need to use and adapt a variety of technology tools and establish new procedures.
So many aspects of school life have changed, and I think in the long term many of these changes will be for the better. I’ve felt that I have served a largely supportive and reactive role, which has been appreciated from all involved, and for that I am thankful. However, it does make me want to build a more purposeful structure around my work, and support the school community in a less reactive, and more proactive way. Here’s what I’m planning on doing moving forward
- Instructional Technology Coaching – Google offers a certification called the “Google Certified Coach“. I have set up a coaching page and started to plant the seed within my district of my plans to focus on structured coaching next year, the benefits of that, and what it looks like. I’m excited to take this next step with my colleagues and look forward to being more directly involved in each of the classrooms.
- Student Workshops – Our middle school has adopted a new schedule for the upcoming school year, one that includes a WINN Block. During the “What I Need Now” block, my plan is to focus on the 4 C’s (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking) by offering some student workshops that run for about 8 weeks and will have them exploring some new skills (like sketchnoting), experiencing using various apps in new ways (like pechakucha with Google Slides), and more. The beauty of having had the experience of using online communication tools means that during these blocks, not only can I have a group of students in my room with me, but I can also connect with learners from around the school via Google Meet, and record our sessions for others to access later.
We’ll see how it goes!