Welcome, and thank you so much for taking some time out of your day. Let’s start with you telling me a little about what you do!
My current job involves serving a 5A Texas school district as Director of Technology Operations. That aside, I am also an avid blogger and writer, publishing in a variety of venues. You can find much of my writing online. I also prepare workshops and deliver keynote presentations.
Fantastic! So, what motivated you to become so involved with educational technology?
What motivated me was a keen interest in bridging what I was passionate about–computers that I’d been using since I was 13 years old–and teaching, particularly, facilitating the writing workshop with grade 5 students. As a 13 year old, I would use my Apple computer to write and publish content. I wanted my students in Cotulla, Texas to have the same opportunity.
What prompted your transition away from the classroom?
My transition away from the classroom began when I started teaching 6th grade in an urban school district. To be honest, I had a bit of a “stacked deck” in terms of students who were trouble-makers and had been labelled so the previous year by that administration. Fortunately, I had an awesome vice-principal who backed me up. She also would ask me to help out with analyzing test scores, since I was the only person on campus (if not multiple campuses) who knew how to use Harvard Graphics Chart making software.
My role as campus technology coordinator began at that moment, and was expanded as I started providing professional development for faculty and staff, as well as modeling the use of technology with students. As time went by, I learned how to work with classroom teachers at various campuses, different districts, and my responsibilities grew over time with each move. In those days, I often felt like the Lone Ranger when I went into a school district. This “lone ranger” approach solidified in my days as a regional education service center education specialist in the San Antonio area.
So based on all of your experiences as a tech coordinator – what would you say is the biggest challenge facing campus technology coordinators today?
The biggest challenge facing campus tech coordinators today is irrelevance. Many campus tech coordinators spend most of their time on technical rather than instructional modeling, and are increasingly finding themselves made irrelevant by the belief that technology training is unnecessary. And, there is some truth in the idea that because we have easier technologies, easy availability of how-to videos via YouTube, online tutorials posted by every Tom, Dick, and Louise out there on the web. We must ask, “Why do we really need to pay someone full-time to be a campus technology coordinator?”
It’s not that we lack an understanding of what needs to be done, but rather, the political will to make it so. When was the last time a district superintendent said, “Let’s require ALL district-level curriculum specialists, as well as campus principals and their leadership team, to use technology for more than data analysis. Let’s set the expectation for them to create virtual learning environments for teachers, parents, and students to use. Let’s set the expectation–and then follow-up and hold them accountable–that they will develop PLNs of their own to accelerate teacher learning and achieve escape velocity…leaving those tired approaches that disconnect students, teachers, and parents from engaging opportunities to connect, collaborate, and create in ways that are meaningful and achieve state learning objectives.”
That’s why I see real value in subsuming technology within curriculum departments, burying it like particles of yeast deep in the educational dough. Our focus is on high-stakes testing, on doing things the way we’ve always done them and hoping that if we can tweak our approaches, we’ll get better results. Unfortunately, blending technology into this kind of environment is just a way to add technology on in a way that is unproductive. If we want technology to be a catalyst for transformation, then we have to be willing to be transformed.
So it sounds like, as a technology leader in your district, you really believe that the tone is set by leadership. Tell me one specific thing you do to set the right tone in terms of technology in your own district?
am 100% committed to the organization I serve. That’s my #1 priority. The tone is set by involving ALL stakeholders, all team members who have a perspective, bringing them to the table, and getting the conversation going. If we are all committed to furthering the organization–and simultaneously, those whom the organization serves, the academic community composed of students, parents, teachers and campus leaders–then we have to be willing to dialogue.
What one tech tool or web 2.0 tool can you not live without?
If you could share one sentence of advice to other campus technology specialists, what would it be?
The time for technology and curriculum specialization is over. Now, I encourage you to pick a content area, a particular set of strategies, and ask yourself a simple question: “What would teaching, learning and leading look like in this area IF technology was the only way you could get the job done?”
Fantastic ! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me tonight. This has been very enlightening, and I think my readers will benefit from reading your responses.
Thanks, and thank you for sharing and blogging.