Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ending the Radio Silence

It's been nearly a year since I've gone anywhere near this blog. Admittedly, work had worn me out and I wasn't nearly as driven as I had once been. We've all been there at one point or another and we all know what impact that can have on everything around us.

Nevertheless, I made a rather profound career change in December. I left the world of tech integration, professional development, and classroom teaching to take on a position as an Assistant Principal in a nearby high school. And although my role did not explicitly involved tech integration, I have quickly found myself back in the forefront.

Prior to arriving, the district lacked any and all wireless access points in either of its two buildings. Nearly every teacher had an interactive whiteboard in the classroom with two full computer labs in the high school as well as two additional labs in the tech ed. classroom as well as the art room. Unfortunately, the district also had a rather strict network filter, which hindered teachers from accessing countless resources.

After getting a feel for the building and my new surroundings, I started laying the ground work for a few initiatives that I had in mind.

Laying the Foundation | Edmodo 
You always have to start with some sort of foundation and Edmodo was going to be our foundation. After introducing the concept during a staff meeting, I had several teachers who were interested in testing out its capabilities. In the first few weeks, I had a handful of teachers rolling out Edmodo with one or two class periods as they got acclimated to the process. Within a month, I started to see more and more growth. Nearly three months in, we've had over 3,500 hits; half the building (staff and students) currently have active accounts. In the past three days alone, students have visited their courses 250 times which is over 83 times a day. Imagine what September will look like when teachers are able to start the school year off with Edmodo in hand?!

I have teachers using Edmodo with their classes. I have coaches using Edmodo with their teams. I have committees setting up Edmodo to share resources. I even have district administrators collaborating through Edmodo!

One recommendation that I have always told other districts - set up a district-specific sub-domain through Edmodo. IT IS FREE! Each building in your district will be provided with an unique pass code to ensure the safety and security of your internal professional learning community. It also allows the system administrator to track usage, change forgotten passwords, and send out district/building wide messages directly through Edmodo. It's definitely worth it and highly, highly, highly recommended.

Filling in the Gaps
Once I had a foundation in place, I needed content. I needed STUFF! Having come from a professional development background, I had a plethora of resources sitting in my back pocket. Lucky for me, New York State Computers and Technology in Education (NYSCATE) had a regional conference coming up. It was time to advertise! Of course, being on the planning committee and facilitating a workshop at the conference had absolutely nothing to do with the push to build attendance. Never. Who would do such a thing.

Nearly a dozen of my staff, including the building principal attending the conference on a Saturday nevertheless. Every single one of them will tell you that it was well worth it. The conference was broken down into a series of one-hour workshops that were facilitated by local tech minded educators, leaders, and in some cases, students. Participants got to see what people were using in their classrooms, how they were using them, and why they were using them. My faculty all walked away with a number of ideas and resources that they could bring back to their classrooms.

I was thoroughly impressed in the weeks that followed the conference when I stopped by various classes to see the teachers incorporating what they learned with their classes. I was even more impressed when I found my teachers turn-keying what they learned and sharing that knowledge with their colleagues.

Making Strides
My building has made some serious headway in just a few short months. Nevertheless, we still have a ways to go. Just this week, we made some drastic changes to the district's filtering settings and removed a number of restrictions that had been hindering classroom teachers.

We will be installing a wireless network system this summer providing full coverage for our two buildings.

We have a BYOD draft policy sitting in the wings.

We are reviewing Google Apps for Education as a possible district-wide solution.

We're rolling out a STEM Academy starting with next year's incoming freshman class.

Teaching in a wired world has taken on a whole new meaning. In actuality, it's taken on it's true meaning. For so many years I always spoke of integrating district and/or building wide initiatives; now I actually get to facilitate real initiatives and develop these programs alongside my staff and students. We've done quite a bit in just a few months; I can't wait to see where the next school year takes us!

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