Read part one of this series.
Technology integration coaches’ responsibilities depend on a district’s vision, access to technology and teacher comfort levels with digital tools. As the technology integration coach at Portsmouth Middle School in Rhode Island, I provide general technology support and professional development trainings for the entire school, although most of my time is spent working with teachers and students in our new 1:1 program.
In year one of the 1:1 program, which focused on the sixth grade, I met with teachers during planning time to discuss how their curriculum could be supported and enhanced by technology. Typically, a teacher will share his or her vision for teaching a specific topic, and I help to make it a reality. Teachers’ goals for lessons, informed by the Common Core Standards, determine the instructional technology choices that we make. Technology is used to enhance and deliver the curriculum, not replace it.
In addition to co-planning, I also taught with the 6th-grade team, helping students learn how to use their devices and applications in subject-specific contexts. While I am co-teaching, I also troubleshoot technology problems and help teachers learn how to be flexible with their plans when the inevitable technological glitches occur.
Since technology is always changing, I need to stay abreast of the latest innovations, so I attend professional development conferences, read lots of research and visit other schools to see best practices in action.
I then share my newly acquired knowledge with teachers. I try to ground all of our technology strategies in sound instructional models and research. And I always test-drive new technology programs before asking teachers to try them.
I need to learn constantly, this is a fast-paced and demanding position, which requiresspecific qualitiesand that’s why I love it.
We observed the following evidences of success this year:
- Students are extremely engaged in technology-based activities. They love working on the Chromebooks and look forward to using them during classes. They feel comfortable with the technology.
- Students are taking more responsibility for their learning. They love having the ability to “google” definitions and locate information to clarify concepts they don’t understand. In addition, they always have access to their homework, classwork and agendas through Google Classroom. If students are home sick, they can still follow the agenda and complete assignments.
- Students are taking the initiative to problem-solve more often because of their easy access to so many resources. One student told me that he “feels in charge of his learning” because he can “solve his own problems”.
- Students are comfortable completing standardized tests on the Chromebooks. They also like the fact that they can take tests in their familiar classrooms rather than in a computer lab.
- Students with accommodations that require them to use assistive technology feel more accepted because now everyone is using technology. One student told me he feels “happier” using his device this year because he doesn’t feel or look different. Instead, he said that he “feels proud” because he is able to help other students understand their devices since he is now “a pro.”
- Students are collaborating with other students and receiving constant feedback. The G-Suite makes it easier for students to work and learn together, building on each others’ skills and ideas.
- Teachers are successfully establishing routines, online agendas, playlists, Google Classrooms and technology-infused lessons. Teachers are taking risks in their classrooms and are growing as educators.
- Teachers are incorporating more videos and online applications into their lessons. Their students have been able to access more resources and the curriculum in non-traditional formats.
- Teachers have successfully used online portfolios, projects and assessments to document student understanding and growth. Many teachers have found that online assessments provide more immediate results that help them to tailor their instruction. In addition, teachers have found that web-based collaborative projects have increased students’ ability to showcase creativity, knowledge and 21st-century skills.
Inevitably, with our successes, came the following challenges:
- Students inadvertently accessed inappropriate content. The filters on our devices did not block some inappropriate pictures when students were completing a research unit on Greece. We used this experience as a teaching moment, and asked students to alert us about any inappropriate content so that we could report the problems with the filter to our IT department.
- Students would sometimes forget to charge their devices overnight. We allowed students to charge these Chromebooks in class, but it affected their “participation” grades.
- The devices didn’t come with headphones and some students didn’t own a pair. Therefore, we wrote a grant and were awarded 200 sets of earbuds for next year, which will be distributed with the devices at Chromebook Orientation.
- Finding the balance between Chromebook instruction and teacher-led instruction was tricky.
Teachers needed to experiment with different blended learning techniques to find a routine that was comfortable for them.
Some teachers utilized the Chromebooks less than others, but most teachers used technology during their lessons 4-5 days per week.
- There were compatibility issues with some programs. We spent a lot of time tending to technical issues that regularly occurred within subject-specific programs. We contacted these companies to fix the issues, and they provided us with additional technical support.
- We had a lot of Internet/connection issues that interfered with instruction. We created a Google Form to document these occurrences so they could be fixed.
In my final blog post, I’ll share some of the most effective ways Portsmouth Middle School teachers leveraged technology this past year.