Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Getting Back to the Classroom

I've asked myself this question a thousand times this year - if you love the classroom so much, than why did you move to a tech integrator role?

The answer is never as simple as the question as makes it, as a variety of factors led to that. But, most important, I felt that given my strengths and passions, that role was the best for me to help the most kids. After half a year of doing this, I can honestly say that was the correct decision.

Even though many days are filled with a lot of behind the scenes stuff, such as configuring Infinite Campus settings, solving weird issues like Tech Support-lite, or creating tutorials, I cherish the moments when I get to be in a classroom with kids.  A lot of what I do will impact kids eventually, as teachers learn to be more innovative with technology, they can offer students a better learning experience.  That is a win for everybody. But interacting with the students and running a classroom is what it's all about!

So today, as I wrapped up my 4th class teaching about computer science and genetics to 7th graders, I left with such a great feeling. I don't think it was the best lesson I've ever taught. I certainly presented more than I like to, and didn't give the students nearly enough time to be hands on or reflect on what it is they learned. Ultimately, however, I had an opportunity to utilize some new learning (crafting learning targets) while getting the students excited about a topic they rarely receive exposure to.

And that is really why I left today feeling great. This was a short lesson, 40 minutes.  We didn't have much time to get in-depth on anything. But the win wasn't whether or not they learned a lot then, the win is the excitement and interest the students had in the topic. I gave them an example of how scientists worked with programmers to create a game called Fold-It which allowed users from anywhere to fold proteins in an effort to solve the mystery of their true shape.  I couldn't explain how it worked, but in one particular instance, gamers playing this game solved a problem in 3 weeks that scientists were perplexed by for decades. To see students' eyes light up to think of how gaming can actually make a difference in the world was just so cool.  I know that not every student is going to go home and totally embrace this, but the feeling was that some will. Some will take my tiny lesson and run with it.

I have a few more in-class lessons lined up in the near future, and am really looking to step up my lobbying efforts. Being in contact with students directly is what helps keep me sharp, and understanding what the students need and what they are interested in.  In addition, the freedom of being a tech integrator provides me the opportunity to get into a wide variety of classes in a wide variety of subjects, far expanding my skills and abilities beyond what I gained as a Business Education teacher. My goal remains to provide students the best, most enjoyable education possible, and my hope is that every time I enter a classroom, both the teacher and the students are excited for what is about to happen.

Sure, some of my colleagues are still shocked when I tell them I'm not really tech support, or that I'd help them plan a lesson and teach with them.  Slowly but surely, the integration part of my job that I am so passionate about is beginning to have a bigger role. I'll never get away from the doldrums of administrative tasks, or the teacher to teacher training that is so crucial. After all, if I really am successful at my job, I'd make myself obsolete because the teachers wouldn't need me!  Ultimately, though, I'm in it for the kids and will do whatever I can to make our school a great place for them. For me, getting back to the classroom is one of the best ways I can serve both the students and the teachers.

Here's hoping for a lot more of that in the second semester!

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