Saturday, September 20, 2014

An Unexpected Journey

Three weeks in, and I'm doing things I would have never thought I'd be doing at this point.

That's right...I've entered the Matrix. I'm the balding guy up there in the corner.
This school year, I began a new position as a Technology Training Specialist. Coming from being a classroom teacher, I had no idea what I was getting into. I'd hoped my job would include plenty of integration and time with teachers and students, and obviously lots of time playing with tech. It has been some of that, but other things have surprised me.

Courtesy of 8th grade teacher Meghan. Wish it was in my office 

First - I've spent a lot of time on Google Scripting.  And I'm not done yet.  I was approached by the middle school looking for a way to facilitate their new Academic Recovery system, where students would go to get help on homework they were missing.  The system was to help track for data purposes, as well as a way for teachers to communicate with the academic recovery team.  The first iteration sent an email to the team each time a student was sent (via Google Form). But, an issue occured when trying to maintain the spreadsheet and remove the students who had finished. Not that it is that hard, but it is one extra thing and certainly something that is time consuming.

So, with the help of an amazing guy David Tess, we made a system that, using Google Scripts, allowed teachers to type in the name of the student on a different form, and it removed them from the Academic Recovery list.  This then led to requests to have students removed by assignments, because the current method only supported a student name.  We added that in.  Finally, at the end of a long road, we went for a long shot.  With the help of David, we combined old sheets and FormRanger with custom scripting to generate a dynamic drop down on the removal form, eliminating the need to spell both the student name and assignment perfectly as it was on the spreadsheet to remove a student.

I plan on tinkering with this over time, finding new ways to make life easier for teachers. But ultimately, I'm happy with what I learned there and am thankful for the knowledge of Google Scripts and the friends I have that can help me on a whim!

Secondly, I've done a LOT of public relations work for technology.  The attitudes towards technology are very negative, and most teachers are in a whirlwind with the constant changes.  Because of this, I've poured a lot of effort into trying to simplify things for teachers, and show them ways they can achieve results without necessarily losing functionality.  It is scary to live in a world where things change so fast AND they affect your job. It has also helped my rapport immensely once teachers realize that I have taught. I was a teacher.  

Undoctored email. My heart is warmed by stuff like this.

Third, I've got some awesome student connections going. I've transformed the middle school announcements into a daily morning semi-live activity using Google Hangouts on air. I had two boys from last year loving coming in every morning and making this happen. Grand visions exist of a fun and vibrant "news-like" experience where my two veterans can produce the show without much input from me, and we get weekly guest anchors.  The possibilities are there and I'm pumped to see where they go.

Along those lines, I also get to do a similar once a week announcements with students at the intermediate school.

Most promising, though, is a coding club. My assistant principle Luke has been a champion for this club from the beginning and is going to be taking this to our superintendent to make the case for a paid extracurricular. Whether or not it is doesn't matter to me - I'm loving the support and can't wait to get that off the ground this year.

After three weeks of live school (and another two weeks of prep work prior to the school year) I am loving my new position and feel that I am thriving on the fast paced and multi-faceted role I am in.  As the year progresses, I'm hoping to be in classrooms daily and making an impact on each child through some amazing tech integrated projects.  Our TTS team is planning an awesome schedule of workshops for teachers.  De Pere will have an exceptional year of growth in this area.

Oh, and there's this Minecraft after school club I'll be doing on occasion throughout the year.

And we just started a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the intermediate school.

Life is good. I love supporting teachers and connecting with students.

I'm in my element, and it feels great.

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