Friday, May 20, 2011

Change Brings Frustration

I have been working on a committee this past school year that has been tasked with improving the way that technology is used in the district. I’m lucky to work with many passionate teachers, parents and administrators as we look at different ways to take the influx of tech in our buildings (Smart Products) and get the most out of them. It’s a tall order, but something I think can be accomplished.

The frustration comes from the fact that we all want the same thing, but do not have a clear path on how to get there. We want to great a district that is a leader in educational technology. We want our students to be 21st Century learners. We don't have the money. So, we need to find ways to accomlishour goals with little or no money.
One of the things I was tasked with doing was using my PLN to gather information on how other people support the integration of technology in their district. I talked to many awesome people and pulled together what I think would be the best solution to our problem. Here is the presentation I put together.

I truly feel that adding 3 people to focus on teacher training is the best way to move forward. By providing the support for the teachers, we can then move the conversation to reviewing the curriculum to see how we can change what we do there with our new skills. As a district, we cannot move forward if our staff is not trained and our current system is not sufficient. If we are not moving forward, we are getting left behind.

I was not given the chance to give my presentation, but was told the money isn’t there to hire 3 more people. I understand that completely. These are tough times and adding staff is not something districts can do. However, the conversation was still about training teachers and having them prepared to use the technology that is being deployed. How can you expect to train teachers with trainers? When teachers in my district are asked what they want, they say training. When the one teacher trainer was asked what is effective, he said training in small groups. So we want everyone trained, but have no money to train. What do we do next?

Ideas were thrown out about a Tech Czar that would create a vision of technology for the district, create surveys, compile success stories and spearhead the charge for a new tech bond in the district. The idea has merit, but I’m not sure adding an administrator is what we need. That doesn’t solve the training problem and will end up telling us what we already know; teachers are ready to learn and use technology, they just need someone to work with them.

On the way to work, I had an idea that is a compromise to the ideas that were shared at this two-hour meeting. Since we cannot hire three people to act as full time Technology Integrationists, maybe we can take the positions we currently have and adjust what they do. I propose two part-time TIs and one fulltime Tech Czar.
I see two 0.5 positions of Tech Integrationists. They would be responsible for the following,

1:1 staff support – The TIs would go to schools and teach staff how to use the tools AND how to integrate them into their curriculum, departments, etc.

Larger group PD – The TI’s would be responsible for running larger PD sessions for buildings. These times would be checked out by administrators in advance.

Maintaining a blog – Each TI would be responsible for grade levels (K-6 and 7-12) and their blogs would focus on tools that are helpful to those areas.

Online Support – TI’s would create screencasts and videos on how to use specific tools so that teachers can learn on their time how to use everyday tools.

These are the big ideas to start. As the school year moves forward, there will be other ideas that will come up that could be added to their responsibilities, but since they are .5, we do not want to overload them with work because they still have class responsibilities as well. Also, it might be a good idea to have one .5 be set for AM and another set for PM. It would allow for a TI to be available all day.

The Tech Czar

One of the ideas that came out of the discussion was that we need someone to create the vision and take the steps that are needed to see it thought. I feel this person needs to be a teacher in the district. The TC will have 2 responsibilities. One of the responsibilities will be an extra TI. For .5 of the time, they will work in the buildings across grade level like the TIs do. The other .5 will be responsible for the following,

Work with 389 to establish a clear vision of tech today and for the years to come.

Work with the GPFE to provide them with information they need for fundraising.

Working with TIs to organize schedules.

Maintain a site that will be the “Home Base” for training videos and examples of what teachers are doing across the district.

Visiting other districts to see how they set up district wide support networks for staff.

Attending conferences to get the latest on training, staff development, hardware, software, best practices, etc.

Identifying current teachers in the district that are tech leaders and utilizing them to support teachers in their building.

Surveying staff across the district to get a specific idea of the training that is needed.

Focus on creating a network in the district that supports tech learning by using the experts in our district.


The current model does not meet the needs of our district. Trying to solve a problem with a broken solution will not accomplish our goal. It is time to look at how we do things and try something different. Our committee said one of our goals is to become a leader in educational technology. I think that is an admirable goal, but to accomplish that, we have to be willing to do things we haven’t done before. Leaders lead by making tough decisions. Decisions need to be made if we truly want to move forward.

There are many teachers in the district that are doing great things and want to support others teachers, but need the support from the district.  However, if a system of support is not set up soon, these teachers are going to lose hope or move to other places that support innovation. If homegrown talent is not cultivated,  it could be lost to other districts. That would hurt the district more than anything else. Now is the time for action.

These views are strictly mine and not the views of my school, department or district. I’m just a teacher that is passionate about helping a school system realize its dream of being a leader in the educational community.

Have a warm and fuzzy day!

- @TheNerdyTeacher


  1. You are right on. I was in a district without support. Was doing all sorts of tech and never even got an "atta boy." I wasn't supported in moving forward. I left and am now a tech coordinator at another school with a lot of support. The last thing you need is a Czar. Waste of $. Hire 2 TI's and put a principal or Sup in charge of vision.

  2. While I understand your general argument, I think there are some issues that deserve further exploration. First - Are teachers requesting technology integration help? (Actually requesting it, it’s not being suggested to them.) If your building is anything like mine, teachers are not about to give up their prep period to have another teacher (peer) come in and tell them how to make their lessons better. Nor will they give up time after school to attend ad-hoc PD sessions. “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t pertain to this particular situation. Second - We need to tease technology integration apart from tech support. Too many schools make no differentiation between the two. Technology integration should first and foremost be driven by curriculum and best practice.

    Let’s start building. In an ideal world this person would hold an advanced degree in curriculum and instruction. This person would:
    *be an expert in the Common Core standards,
    *be the most vocal reading and writing advocate in the building (because that’s what the standardized testing boils down to),
    *be an expert in lesson plan design and execution framed around essential questions,
    *be intimately familiar with the multitude of resources available in the building (including people),
    *know the latest technology tools that directly support the mission.

    Let’s face it, anyone who spends enough time on Twitter following the right people, attending conferences like MACUL, and reading ed tech journals and blogs can pick up the latest tech tools. It’s using those tools to create knowledge and understand that’s the important, often overlooked component. I can’t tell you how many Glogs or PPTs I’ve seen where, if you strip away the colors... and motion... and flashy fun stuff, you’re left with the student having typed or copy-pasted about 150 words. Many districts hire tech integration parapros (disguised under many flashy names) who follow the “cool” ed tech part. They offer PD sessions or push/forward emails to teachers describing the latest “neat” tool they came across, which ultimately causes the teachers to block their emails. Not very effective.

    So my thoughts basically boil down to: 1) This ideal person needs to be hired in on the admin level and have some authority to force change, track progress toward goals, and evaluate the teacher on some level. If there is no accountability, most likely change will not occur. 2) This person needs to be first and foremost a curriculum expert focused on lesson planning and assessment. 3) This person needs to use technology as a tool that supports lesson planning and assessment and can differentiate between technology fluff and those technology tools that will create substantial measurable gains. Curriculum drives technology use, never the other way around.

    Let’s give this person a title. How about Building Curriculum Director? Now that this ideal roaming position has been established, we can return to the tech support side of things. In my mind, tech directors, let’s call them Tech Support Directors should be professional computer/network engineers. If decisions need to be made, say for the adaptation of software at the district level, the two “building curriculum directors” you propose could meet with the tech support director and make the best decisions.

    I will end this post with another blogger’s tag line, “Does this make sense?”


  3. Nick,
    I cannot tell you how timely this post is. Unless I am mistaken NOT ONE SCHOOL in the entire region has their own technology integrationist. I work for a service unit and one of the many services we provide is technology training for 21 districts. We currently have one technology integrationist who wears numerous other hats as well. He simply doesn't have the time to handle all of it alone.

    A few weeks ago I pitched an idea to my district. I asked them to add me as a 1/2 time tech integrationist during the time I am normally managing my online classes. It would have cost them at the most $5000 for the year to hire someone to do that. My classes bring in $4000 in incentive funds so it would have essentially cost my service unit $1000.

    What would they have gotten for $1000? They would have gotten someone who is truly passionate about bringing true change to schools. They would have been able to provide schools access to someone who is a classroom teacher and who knows how to teach teachers how to use technology to make their lessons more meaningful, collaborative, and engaging. I could have spent about 15 hours a week working with teachers next year where I could have had an impact on hundreds and hundreds of students. Instead I will spend another year teaching 6-8 students online. My skills will be under-utilized yet again. Don't get me wrong. I love to teach both face-to-face and online, but I could do so much more if I could work with teachers. It is incredibly frustration to know I have to sit on the sidelines because my unit doesn't want to come up with $1000.

    Schools need visionary leaders who can come up with innovative ways to meet the needs of their students. Otherwise we are going to keep getting further and further behind.

  4. Hey Nick:

    I just read this article today and it is a great support resource for your argument! Check it out:

    It sites the #1 reason wrong with educational tech is teachers are ill prepared, lack of PD.

    Enjoy! @bethetigger

  5. You are doing a great job.I wish you all the best for your work.
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  6. You might want to read an article written by, Sandra Kay Plair, about this very topic. It was published in The Clearinghouse journal and entitled: Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency

    It might be good ammunition for getting support for your ideas.


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