Monthly Archives: September 2012

“You can’t do it all”

“You can’t do it all.” These were the words one of my new colleagues shared with me near the end of last week. They were a good reminder as I was quite tempted to try to “do it all,”  even if that wasn’t really possible. I was filled with enthusiasm for my new position and very aware of my long (and growing) to-do list. The words stuck with me and I returned to my classroom to prioritize what needed to be done immediately, what was feasible before the week ended, and what had to be put off until the next week.

My schedule filled up quickly as I continued to learn more about the school culture, prepared for various technology projects across different grades, and continued with my classroom setup. Some of my progress involved learning through trial-and-error. For example, I discovered that it was much more powerful to email the entire staff and reach out personally for their help in saving cafeteria containers for our keyboard project instead of just putting signs up asking people to save them. Other parts of my week involved creating and updating new organizational tools, such as a Google Form I had made for faculty to request help or resources and suggest new ideas. Through teacher feedback, I learned that some portions of the form needed to be shorter and other parts required additional questions so I had enough information to provide help.

The computers set up with green/red cups for kids to ask for help

I also had the  opportunity to work hands-on with some of the new SMART Boards and learn through exploration as I connected cords and helped teachers download the necessary software. But one of the most meaningful parts of the week was having the chance to eat lunch with students each day or help with  recess. This allowed me to start to get to know students, which is so important in building the meaningful relationships that provide a foundation to facilitate relevant and engaging student-led project work!

Showing Voicethread to a kindergarten class

This week, the relationship-building has continued, as I’ve begun to visit individual classes to introduce our technology projects and as students have begun to visit the tech lab. It’s exciting to introduce new tools to the students and see their eyes light up when they realize their voices can be recorded and played back through the computer (Voicethread) or their words can be written on top of photos (Skitch). I’m looking forward to working one-on-one with more students later in the week and starting to really learn their names (which is a huge help!) as we work together.

Preparing for the School Year

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for the past two weeks as I prepared for and started a new position and a new school year. I am now a Lower School Technology Coordinator at an independent school, working specifically with PreK-2nd grade teachers and students. Given my experiences focusing on the developmentally appropriate use of technology for these ages, I was excited to begin and start talking with teachers to learn more about which tech tools might be a good fit to integrate into their curriculum and classroom projects.

In addition to talking with teachers, I have been working on setting up a number of different pieces to be ready for the year. These include:

Classroom Setup:

computer lab

Pre-Classroom Setup

My “home” in the school is a computer lab with 21 PC desktops, nine bulletin boards, a large whiteboard, two flat screen TVs and one document camera. I took some time to plan out how I wanted to set up the various bulletin boards and how I could add some color to the white walls. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to start the year with a board for digital citizenship, one for global collaboration, one for lab rules, and one for a “tool of the month.” The rest of the boards I am reserving for a hands-on, experiential learning project with my first graders, who will help me build a 3D keyboard.

The Digital Citizenship & Global Collaboration Boards

To add more color to the walls, I also created a technology alphabet which I posted around the room (e.g., A for Audacity, B for Browser). Then I checked all of my equipment and tested out the TVs to make sure everything was set up for the first class. Finally, I created the content for my bulletin boards, making sure to add more color and lots of visuals for my younger learners who cannot read yet.

Tech Coordinator Setup:

Another important setup piece was figuring out all of the organizational systems and tools I would need for my position and all of the foundational knowledge I would need to work with the teachers and students. I received my weekly schedule to meet with each grade (my school is working towards a philosophy of tech integration vs. pulling out for tech work) and integrated that with a calendar of other duties and meetings. Then I put all those dates into my Outlook calendar which syncs with iCal where I have RSS calendar subscriptions for school events and then I synced that to my mobile devices. Next, I explored the capabilities in Outlook to create rules since I was used to using Gmail and color-coded filters. Finally, I set up a folder system in my school’s Google Drive and on my computer, so my files would be organized as well.

Once those organizational pieces were set, I moved on to finding ways to learn more about each teachers’ current knowledge and tech learning goals. This was accomplished through a mix of face-to-face meetings and a Google Form I created. Then I built another form for teachers to submit tech questions, resource requests, suggestions/ideas, and learning goals so they had a quick and easy way to communicate with me (and Google kindly organizes them all into a spreadsheet so I can keep track of it all!).

With this foundation, I began to plan specific projects with each grade to fit their goals and needs. It looks like we will be exploring Voicethread, ebooks, edublogs, typing and digital photography as part of different classroom projects to start the year!

Community Setup:

In addition to setting up my physical space and preparing systems and plans for the school year, I realized that I needed to learn more information about the school community. I would like my classroom community to mirror the larger practices of each grade and the school as a whole so that when students do come to the lab (versus me working with them in their classrooms), they feel that there is consistency in the expectations and rules.

Lab Rules

My rules for the computer lab

I visited different classrooms to get a sense of what their systems were and I read more about how Responsive Classroom practices (a school-wide initiative) are used in non-homeroom classes. I decided I would adopt at least one Responsive Classroom technique as part of my classroom rules (i.e., having children use a red cup to individually indicate they need help). I also appreciated the practice of having a morning message and hope to do that with children in the lab.

Mental Setup:

Finally, in preparing for the new school year, I discovered that it was important to also think about my “mental setup”. What goals, hopes, and dreams did I want to set for the year? What routines and systems did I want to create to help myself feel prepared and ready to engage in teaching and learning? I took some time to pause and reflect on my specific goals and record them in my professional development plan and I also identified people who could be mentors and allies to help me during my first year. With all of these setup pieces complete, I felt both calm and excited, a bit nervous to start, yet itching to begin and overall, optimistic about the beginning of a new school year and a new job. I’m looking forward to seeing what the year brings and sharing my teaching and learning journey here online.