Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Everyone has their signs for when summer is over and a new school year is upon us. For me that sign is a 17+ hour trip from Seattle back to Bangkok. Plenty of time to change your state of mind and a clear sign that the new school year is just around the corner.

This summer while in the States I had the opportunity to meet many new comers into ed tech. It seems more and more schools are starting to understand that they need to have the support in place for teachers to be successful in integrating technology. Until our teacher preparation programs change, and I hope they do, this position it critical in helping staff and students a like in integrating technology into their teaching and learning.

Once again I am new to my position. Making this the 6 time in 7 years of being new to Ed Tech either at a school or at a division. So as I start thinking about this coming year 38,000 feet over Vietnam I thought I’d jot down some notes on what I have found successful in starting a new school year off right.

“Would you like cream and sugar with that?”
At the start of the school year it’s all about serving your teachers and starting to build those all so important relationships. In these first 3 days of PD before students show up I’ll be running around the school checking in with all the teachers making sure their computers are working, that they can access all the resources they need to get the year started and end with “Is there anything else I can help you with?” In my position I’m here to support teachers, meet them where they are at and hopefully encourage them to think about using technology in ways to enhance their lessons and student learning.

My Office is my e-mail
Yes I have an office, a place to hang my hat so to speak, but with about 70 teachers to support when I’ll actually be there doing work and not in a meeting or a classroom is unpredictable. One of the things I start any new school or division off with when I introduce myself is to understand my e-mail is my office. With so many way to stay connected now days my office is always with me. Find a way to be mobily productive (more on my set up in another blog post), use the tools that you are helping to “sell” to teachers for your own productivity. Not only does it make you more productive, but you also understand the tools better yourself. Find a set up that works for you and then keep trying to make it better.

Ed Tech is Messy
I’ve worked in technology at three different schools and have held every Ed Tech title you can think of and have operated under more sets of job descriptions than I care to count. When you are in an Ed Tech role you need to know it’s messy. There are no clear lines between the IT and the ED side of technology. Yes I’m not suppose to fix printers, but if fixing a printer gets me in that teacher’s room I’ll do it. We are here to support and supporting meaning being the professionals our colleagues need us to be. Sometimes I’m IT sometimes I’m ED….heck sometimes I’m even a restroom sub. 😉 What I love most about this job is there really are no boundaries to it. I have administrators that trust I know what I’m doing and let me go do what I do best…..not sure what that is….but I do it.

What advise would you give to someone new in Ed Tech? What’s the most important thing to do to get the new school year started off right?

In my Day in the Life video I say this a couple of times and  I can’t stress it enough to education technology teachers/integrators out there that the time you spend in the hallways is time well spent.

This morning I was on my way to get a cup of coffee as per my usual morning routine. I have three different routes I can take to the cafeteria an try to take a different way everyday. Why? Because they lead past different classrooms giving me access to those teachers and students. You never know where you will find a conversation, an opportunity to learn, or an opportunity to teach.

I walked down the art hall today and as I passed the middle school art room I spotted an 8th grade girl who has done some digital art work for me in the past (she loves gimp and uses it exclusively). So I popped in and watched her work on a painting she was doing, and asked her some questions. Found out that they have been studying Friedrich Hundertwasser (German Wikipedia entry) and were in the process of creating a painting based off his style. The teacher came over and we chatted for a little while about the project, the research they did on Friedrich and this culminating activity.

I love art rooms, kids everywhere, music always blaring, and yet focus…always such focus on the work.

I then went on my way down to the cafeteria where I ran into our high school AP history teacher who was getting coffee as well. She started talking about the Moodle course she’s running with her students and how she loves the forums and how they allow students to think before they respond. We talked about how many of our students who are second language English speakers do not participate in class because the conversation moves to quickly. They cannot formulate their responses fast enough to be part of the conversation. What she has found though is that in the forums the students are able to respond, and respond very well.

What really excited her though was how the students are continuing to talk about topics long after they have moved on in class. The example she gave was a topic they studied 4 weeks ago and the forum discussion was around the passing of amendments after the civil war. She told me that they still bring it up in class and it continues to influence in class discussions. The fact that “They won’t stop posting and discussing it.” is what makes these programs so powerful. There is a record of the conversation, a conversation that is not over until the community has decided that it’s over. You want to talk about going deeper into a subject or issue? How about a topic that students were suppose to leave 4 weeks ago, are not getting graded on anymore, but are still continuing to talk about and discuss in and out of class. She’s also working with another AP class in the States and the two classes are working on some forums together…very cool.

We talked some more and I gave her some tips on how to quickly view where and what each student has posted in Moodle without having to scan every single forum entry. She was grateful for the tip and I could see the shine in her eyes at though I had just given her a golden ticket…which I did…her time.

I then walked back to my office and found an e-mail waiting for me from the middle school art teacher who’s class I had popped into 10 minutes earlier. She wanted to know if I could help her take pictures of the student’s art work and put it on our school flickr account.

So in the 15 minutes I left my office this morning. I learned something, taught something, and opened a door to an opportunity to support a teacher. Our job is about building relationships, you will not be invited into a classroom if you cannot create the opportunities to be invited.

So take some time, go get a cup of coffee and walk the halls. If a Principal asks you what you are doing just say “I’m building relationships for learning!”

[tags]relationships[/tags]

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