About four years ago I had some time left at the end of the marking period so I decided to introduce my students to some of the various Google Apps that we had not had time to explore in class. They were fascinated by Google Video chat and Google Voice. One of my students was apparently quite impressed that I knew so much “stuff about technology.” I will never forget the words she spoke to me that day. She said, “Miss–why do you teach social studies? What you really should be doing is teaching other teachers all of these things that you know!” Earlier today I had nearly the identical conversation with a student who needed help figuring out some of the settings on his blog. With a couple of clicks I was able to fix his issue. He told me that I should be a “computer tech” because I am “really good at figuring this stuff out.”
What neither student realized was that working with teachers was my dream. It is something I have been working towards ever since 2008 when I attended my first ISTE conference and learned that some districts employ teachers whose sole job it is to help teachers understand how to integrate technology into their classrooms. I feel like virtually everything I have done over the last seven or so years has prepared me for the next step in my career.
Earlier today I was offered the position of Instructional Technology Integration Specialist for Gering Public Schools. Starting in August I will begin working with teachers as well as students in this brand new position. Words cannot even express how excited I am to have this opportunity!
This year marks the tenth year of my teaching career and this is the ninth year I have been in my current position. I have been so fortunate to teach in a school where I have had nothing but support and encouragement. My colleagues are like family to me and it is going to be very hard to say goodbye at the end of the year. I am not mentally prepared to even think about saying goodbye to my kiddos. Each time I think about it I get a lump in my throat and my eyes well up with tears. I just can’t go there yet……..
When I was preparing my application for this job I knew I needed to do something that would make me stand out from the other applicants so I enlisted the assistance of my personal learning network. I asked 65 or so of my colleagues to write a very short recommendation for me and explain why I would be a good fit for the job. I took their recommendations and I made them into a slide show which I linked on my CV. It definitely helped me drive home the point that by hiring me they also get all of my connections. Four of these individuals were also my references who wrote traditional letters of recommendation for me. THANK YOU so much for taking the time to help me catch my dream. I also want to thank Kris, Emily, and Madison. They are the best family anyone could ever ask for!
This week has been absolutely wonderful! In fact, it has been the most enjoyable week of my ten year teaching career. We put our regular social studies lessons on hold while we worked on our Budding Artist project. Back in December I requested art supplies through DonorsChoose and this week we finally got to use them! I had been looking forward to this week since December! I could not wait to see what my students would create.
So this week we painted. It has been incredible to see what my students have come up with, but what I have enjoyed even more is getting to know them. So many stories were shared this week that would not have been shared if we had been working on regular school work. I intentionally created a very relaxed space outside of our regular classroom to make it feel less like school. We listened to music, we laughed and we joked around. I was nice to be able to take the time to play and create. While it did take time away from our regular lesson plans, what was gained was well worth the sacrifice of two class periods. I don’t mean to sound too sappy, but we bonded.
None of this would have been possible without the wonderful people who supported my DononsChoose project. By giving money to this project they sent the message to my students that they matter. Each painting will be hung up in the hallway of our school and each one will be dedicated to a specific donor. Each student made a handprint which will be displayed in the hallway with a description of the project and a sign that reads “Each of these students had a hand in this project.” Because of this project my students feel like they have some ownership in their school. They are very proud of their work and I am SUPER proud of them!
Earlier this evening my friend Shana Bull asked her Facebook friends what their favorite holiday cookie was. Lots of people replied and so many of the things they shared sounded so good! Her post inspired me to do something special for the holiday season. I put together a Google Doc where everyone can share their favorite holiday treat as well as the recipe. Since our personal learning network is spread across the entire world, I thought it would be special if we were able to share some holiday traditions with each other. If you participate (and I hope you do!) please include your name and Twitter handle, your location (country), and a brief story about why this recipe is important to you. Can you imagine what a fabulous document this will be if lots of people share their favorite treats?! If you share this link on Twitter please use the hashtag #plntreats.
I have come across two blog posts in recent weeks that have resonated with me. Both are about the use of Internet filtering and the role of the IT department in schools. Doug Johnson’s (@BlueSkunkBlog) Don’t be a mushroom when it comes to filtering and Gary Stager’s(@garystager) One in a Million are definitely worth reading, especially if you can relate to what it is like when you are in the middle of a project with your students and you find you are blocked from sites that you KNOW have educational value.
Some of the pushback to these two posts came from IT directors who were quick to point out that they have to make sure their network complies CIPA, FERPA, and other laws. If you are not sure what all of these acronyms are then I recommend taking a look at Unmasking the Digital Truth. Wes Fryer has done a superb job busting some myths surrounding CIPA and other legislation. Henry Thiele’s FUD vs GAFE presentation might be of interest to you if you work in a district that is anti-Google.
Filtering in school is necessary and required by law in order for schools to receive eRate funding. I don’t think you will find many teachers who are opposed to filters that are required by law. I have some concerns regarding excessive use of filters and I’m pretty sure a number of educators share these same concerns.
I’m not saying there are not really good IT departments out there. I definitely don’t think that 999 out of 1000 techs are evil, but I think sometimes they can be overzealous when it comes to filtering content. I believe so much of it comes down to the desire to control the network and the people who are using it. Many teachers are afraid to use the Internet with their students because they are intimidated by the IT department. The only way to get past this is for teachers to become informed and for the lines of communication between teachers and tech to be open. Students have the right to be on a network that is as open as possible. It is our job to teach students how to filter out information. My biggest concern is that if the person with the keys to the kingdom is allowed to block sites they deem distracting, then what is keeping them from blocking sites that don’t fit within their idea of what is educationally valuable? What safeguards are in place in districts to make sure this doesn’t happen?
UPDATE-–Project has been funded! Please consider helping me get a jump start on my next project which is a field trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The trip will cost approximately $1400 which will cover the cost of a charter bus ($1100) and tickets to the special exhibit ($300) on the Mayans and a ticket to the planetarium for 45 students. General admission is free for schools until next December. This world class museum is about 3 1/2 hours away and it will be the first time that many of my students have visited Denver. For some of them it will be their first trip out of the state! The teachers will be making providing sack lunches for the students to help keep the cost down.
For those of you who don’t already know this, I teach at an alternative high school. Many of my students are the ones that, for a variety of reasons, did not fit well in the traditional school system. We only offer classes in the four core areas. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer art or music classes. I try to work in art projects throughout the year, but sometimes I feel like I could do a better job encouraging my students to express their creativity. Since we only offer classes in the four core areas we have never had a descent amount of art supplies. I would like to change that!
My school is housed on the campus of Western Nebraska Community College. Artists from across my region have their work on display in the building where we are located. My students have expressed how much they would like to create artwork to display in our hallway. A couple of my students have brought pieces up they created in art classes when they still attended a traditional high school that we have hung up, but I would like to have something from every student.
My vision is for each of my students to paint a canvas to display. This will provide them with a sense of ownership in our building and a feeling that they are part of a community. My students come from nine different districts including Scottsbluff, Gering, Mitchell, Morrill, Banner County, Bridgeport, Bayard, Kimball, and Minatare. When their principals, counselors, superintendents visit our building I want to be able to show them how talented these students are. Not only will it provide a much needed boost of confidence in my students, but it will make our school just that much more beautiful and cheerful!
Please consider making a donation to my first project. From now until December 5, any donation you make to my project will be doubled (up to $100). To have your donation matched dollar for dollar, enter the promo code INSPIRE on the payment screen.
If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your donation will brighten my students’ school year, and you’ll get photos and thank you notes from our class.
Here’s my classroom request:
Budding Artists: Painting Our Way to a Prettier School
My students and I greatly appreciate your support.