Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Am a Technology Integration Specialist, But What Does That Really Mean?

Kindergartners learning to code with Scratch Jr.
I've thought a lot about this since starting my new job as Technology Integration Specialist in August.  I was pretty much handed an arm full of laptops and iPads and sent schools in a rural district in Vermont.  There wasn't much training except for a few shadow days towards the end of last year and a list of things that had been done previously.  The one thing I did know for sure that it was my job to integrate technology in the classrooms.  But what does that really mean?  And how does one do that?  Luckily, I thrive on the new and unknown because pretty much every career choice I've ever made had the same sort of scenario when I started: Here's your job, now go figure out how to do it.

First I feel I need to define the differences between a Technology Integration Specialist, Technology Teacher, and IT Specialist.   The keyword in my title is Integration. Technology Teacher and Technology Integration Specialist are two distinct roles, at least it is on our district.   A Technology Teacher will hold "Technology Class" with groups of students and is the lead teacher of that group at that time. Technology is treated like a separate subject with a specific time carved out to hold Technology class during the day or week.  A Technology Integration Specialist will also work with students, but he/she is not usually the lead teacher yet rather a co-teacher.  A tech integration specialist works with the classroom teacher to find ways to integrate technology into their already existing curriculum.  The classroom teacher will teach the content while tech integrationist teaches the students the tech component of that lesson.

Technology Integration Specialist and IT are also two very distinct roles in my district.  In some neighboring districts, the IT person is also the Technology Integration Specialist, and I am extremely grateful that isn't the case in my district.  Tech Integration will always take a backseat to the high priority of some the IT issues, which means very little integration actually takes place.   Still, sometimes people confuse my role with that of my IT counterpart.  I try to fix what I can, but if I cannot figure it out within a few mins, I'll suggest they contact IT.  I panic just like the rest of you when the internet goes out because I don't know how to fix it.

I spent the greater part of the summer compiling lists and ideas while simultaneously creating an informal job description based those lists.  Combined with a few months of fresh experience, this is what I have determined is the role of a Technology Integration Specialist.  I'm sure as time goes on this list will morph and change, not only because I am brand new at this job and still figuring it out, but also because technology constantly changes and so I expect my job will as well.  I know I still have a lot to learn, but this is what I have come up with so far:

I am a:
  1. Collaborator -  I work with teachers, guidance counselors, principals, school nurses,  etc on all types of different projects that involve technology.                            
  2. Co-teacher - I work with teachers to develop lessons plans that integrate technology into their curriculum, and often I am in the classroom with the teacher co-teaching a lesson.  Usually, the teacher will teach the content while I teach the technology component.
  3. Researcher and Resource Finder -  I spend a portion of my time researching apps, programs, websites, etc.   I often have teachers come to me and say, "I'd like to have something that did ..." or "I want to learn how to..." And since I am new at this job, I don't often have the tool up my sleeve, but I'll take their request, do the research for them, learn how to use the technology, and then come back and teach them.    
  4. Disseminator of Information - Often times, teachers don't know the tools that are available to them, so I spend a portion of my time making sure I find ways to provide that information to them. Many times, it is hard to get enough professional development time with teachers and that time is usually few and far between.  I still want to let teachers know what's out there, so I use different mediums to deliver the information to them.  Teachers, just like our students, learn in different ways, and so I  try to provide a variety of learning platforms.  Some of the things I do are create videos, blog, send out a weekly edtech newsletter, tweet, hold bi-weekly lunch and learn Tech Talks, send out emails and create self-guided PD using Gooru.org
  5. Innovator - I am constantly seeking out new things, teaching myself how to do things and then sharing that information with teachers and staff.  It is my job to find out what's out there and keep a pulse on what's going in schools with edtech.  
  6. Mentor - Sometimes teachers just want to bounce ideas off of me and I am there to listen.  Other times, a teacher, who is a reluctant tech user, might want to have me around when trying something new or needs reassurance they're not going to set off any nuclear bombs when they touch the computer.  
  7. Professional Development Facilitator - A key component of my job is to create and facilitate edtech professional development both school and district wide.  
  8. Teacher of Digital Citizenship - This was the first project I dived into.  I noticed there hadn't been a whole lot of digital citizenship before I arrived, and so I immediately started working on finding a curriculum that would work with all grades that had 1:1 Chromebooks.  The curriculum I choose is from Common Sense Media because it breaks it up nicely by grade level and was developed by known researchers in the field.  I believe that digital citizenship is something that should be taught in every grade, every year.  One lesson, one time in 8th grade isn't going to do any justice and the kids will forget it all by lunch.  But if we make it a vital part of the school's curriculum - something they discuss and learn about every year - then, hopefully, the impact will be greater.  
If you are a Tech Integrationist, or work in the field of educational technology, I'd love your feedback on this list.  I am also a learner, and it is part of my job to learn from others in the field.

4 comments:

  1. Under innovator I would add that you find new ways to use existing tools. So finding and passing tools is cool, but how can you use them in new in different ways? Like appear.in? Just a video conference tool on surface, how could you use it to give each child or small group a portal to another virtual small group of individual child? Here was my blog on that.

    http://dougtimm.blogspot.com/2015/08/what-if-classroom-connections-went.html

    Great post though!

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  2. Nice job Erica! Your district was lucky to find someone so thoughtful about their job. Like you, about 8 years ago or so, I got a job that really was a blank slate. I had to figure out what my job was. Reflection was key to the success we experienced. Through reflection I noticed patterns that help define what the job would be (or shouldn't be) - similarly to what you did here. After a year, I noticed that most of what I did fell into three categories 1) remove barriers 2) fuel innovation and 3) create systems that moved the organization forward. I think that two of the words I might add to your definition are connector and leader. Connector - sometimes my biggest success was to connect someone to another person that resulted in amazing collaboration. Sometimes it was to connect them to a resource. Leader -- Not all leaders have a formal title - but from what I read here, you are in a position to help lead your organization.

    Keep up the great work.

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    Replies
    1. Lucie, thank you for the kind words! I really enjoy this job, so most of the time it doesn't actually feel like "work". I agree with your three categories and I can see how everything I've been doing can fit into those 3 categories. And thank you for the two added suggestions; I have definitely connected people together. As for leader, well, I think I still have a lot to learn, but that's what I strive to be. A year from now, I will look at this blog post and I am looking forward to seeing how my view points have either changed or stayed the same. Thank you for taking the time to read this!

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