Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Technology Integrator...

"Find something you love to do
and you'll never have 
to work a day in your life." 

I've heard that quote many times, but never believed it... until now. I recently turned a half-time position into a full time job helping teachers, students and staff in our large high school of over 2,000 students. We are finally close to finishing extensive renovations, which includes the library. Along with the physical renovation of the room, we have transformed the media center into a "literacy center", encompassing many different resources for staff and students including writing, reading, math and technology. It's very exciting to have a space of my own in there, and to be part of the new environment. 

People often ask "what do you do all day?", and it's a very hard question to answer. Today was such a good day that I feel like I can finally answer by describing a day in the life:

7:00 am - I arrive at school, check my mailbox and go to the library. I still enter each day with a sense of awe at how much-improved our new library is, and how lucky I am to work there. 

I really need coffee, but as I drop my things on my desk I am quickly reminded that the brand new, beautifully prepared student computer lab in the library is opening today for the first time. Students are already arriving before school to log in, print files and check things. They are impressed. I am nervous. I want things to go well and kids to be able to log in without a hitch. I monitor how it goes and breathe a sigh of relief as they happily get to work.

7:30 and I finally sit down (with coffee!) to check my email and calendar before my first meeting. Many new notes, but a quick scan shows that most can wait. I answer a few cries for help regarding the workshops I had organized for the day before, but were cancelled due to an unplanned fire alarm.

My first meeting with a school psychologist and her secretary, where I helped them create a shared calendar and give permissions to all of the right people, feels like a successful start to the day. I am off and running, and they are happy. It feels so good to help!

2nd period is productive. I have some time to research SmartBoard tutorials and handouts from the Internet. I have many teachers getting new SmartBoards installed and each needs help getting started. I update the school technology help page with resources and print some handouts. While I'm working at my desk, I have the opportunity to talk to the kids who are excitedly using the computers near me. I also launch the NetOP Teacher software so I can monitor what they are up to. Everything and everyone is working as planned. 

3rd and 4th period I spend working with teachers during their prep period. Some are excited and some are apprehensive about using their new SmartBoards, but we get down to business playing with them and learning the software. By the time I leave I have a very positive feeling that they might actually use them and call me back when more questions arise. Very rewarding!

5th period is lunch, but first I have to run to the music department to help the band director. He needs some information and a color scan for an upcoming Marching Band trip to the Fiesta Bowl. 

Lunch - finally! I have a chance to take a deep breath and eat with some colleagues. I hang out with a librarian, an English teacher, and the reading specialist. Most of the lunch time is spent discussing the use of iPads and videos for our YouTube channel. I love it!

6th period and I am back to my computer. I check my email - the number of unanswered questions and things I need to respond to is growing fast and overwhelming. Deep breath. Knock some out of the way, before I head upstairs to visit another new computer lab. We just opened this lab to classes and we don't have a person manning it, so I need to check in once in a while and make sure things are running smoothly. I chat with the teacher in there about what the kids are working on. They are using Google Docs to collaborate on a project. I make sure that all of the kids can log in, reset a password for one of them, and move on.

7th period I meet with the Special Ed. department chair about how I can work with all of her teachers and help them with their technology needs. Many of them want to know how to set up for their students and they also want a lot of help learning Google Docs. I form an email to each suggesting we meet when they have a free period. On the way to and from this meeting I meet a few teachers along the way who stop to ask various tech questions. It feels good to be so popular :)

8th period (where DID this day go???) and I am thinking about the fact that I haven't done enough yet to plan for my after school Web Team meeting. I'm hoping I can squeeze a few minutes in to find a good Dreamweaver CS6 tutorial for the kids. I also want to find some web resources to show them. We are creating an online version of our school newspaper and need to get started soon. In between meeting with the librarians about an upcoming Board of Ed meeting where we have been asked to present, helping students on the new library computers, and scheduling meetings for next week, I found some things for my after school club. 

2:30! Web Team meeting and then I'm done for the day. At least at school. When I get home I will update the high school website with the daily bulletin and some other changes, jump on Twitter, read a few blogs, then collapse. 

I LOVE this job!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Twitter is There When Technology is Scarce

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity" ~Albert Einstein

Three weeks into our new school year and I'm finally able to dig in and get to work. "Like new" renovation has been going on at our high school for years and this summer was supposed to be the last phase. Low and behold (things in construction never seem to go as planned), we came back to school to many frustrations: lack of computers in the labs and the new media center, delays on the installation of building-wide Wifi, and delays in ordering iPad and laptop carts for all departments. Everyone in the building is facing hardships, but as the technology integrator for the school, I am feeling particularly discouraged. I have been able to help teachers get up and running with their gradebooks, their websites and SmartBoards. So there's that.

One bit of technology that we do have available to us through all of this is Twitter, so we are on a mission to promote it to the staff and students.

This summer our librarian came up with an exciting idea. The library tweets a question every day on "A Year in the Life of a High School". Responses are collected and he will put it all together into a book. He's been tweeting every day and there has been some response, but we'd love more. Follow us @THStweets and join in the book project!

We are looking at other great ways that teachers and students can use Twitter in high school. Here are some of the ideas and resources I've found in my research:

50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

100 Ways To Use Twitter In Education, By Degree Of Difficulty

5 Tips for Teachers Getting Started on Twitter

NEA - Can Tweeting Help Your Teaching?

Some Educators to Follow on Twitter: