Friday, April 25, 2014

Three Years of Tech Lead

Three years ago, I said good-bye to my previous school -- my place of employment for 15 years -- and went on a frantic nation-wide job search that landed me a mere 30 minutes from my house. Each year here at Miami Valley Christian Academy has been drastically different from the others, so I thought I'd take a moment and sum things up.

Year One (2011-2012)
I was initially hired to teach 5th and 6th grades (Bible, math, social studies, and language arts) and to help implement the  iPad rollout for in 5th-12th grades. The irony is that I had never touched an iPad till after I was hired, but my Master's thesis on technology integration and excitement for tech projects helped me win the job.

I was put on a tech committee and given a couple extra planning periods to do techie things. I spent a lot of time on Twitter and blogs, trying to find great apps and best practices, all while modeling teaching with tech in my regular classes. I was also inundated with new everything, teaching at a different school in a different state with different expectations and curriculum.

I blitzed our IT Department with new apps to load and constantly unleashed them on my students as well as trying them out myself. One of my favorite ways to do this was station day, which you can read about in this link.  I came to the conclusion that I wasn't a huge fan of content-specific apps. They were too narrowly focused (practicing only one skill) and were more geared toward consumption than creation.

Toward the end of that year, I was sent to a one-day Google conference and fell in love with Google Drive. We'll get to that later.

Year Two (2012-2013)
My second year brought a lot of change. We had a massive restructure of our administrative staff, and a teaching partner of mine became principal over the whole academy. She kept me in the 5th/6th grade role, but gave me a lot more time for research and implementation of ideas. I was also given the official role of Tech Lead (though I think Technology Integration Specialist would have sounded more prestigious).

That year was still marked with a lot of trial and error. My favorite was combining KidBlog and Educreations for students to demonstrate how to solve problems in math.

Speaking of Educreations, at some point I had to make a decision on some apps. There are a number of other apps that do similar things.  At some point, you have to decide you would rather use Educreations than ScreenChomp.  (I really don't know why I liked one more than the other, but this might have had something to do with it.) Choosing one means you leave the other in the dust. The other may have great features and do neat things, but you have to throw your efforts at the chosen one and not worry about what you lost.

I also launched our school's Facebook page in the fall of 2012, a role I brought upon myself and continue today. I'm known around here as The Facebook Guy. Yes, I'm the one who pesters people, "You went on a field trip. Where are the pictures?"

In the second semester, things changed dramatically. For a number of reasons I was taken out of the regular classroom and given a sweet gig! I taught computer/tech K-8 and had HOURS of time for research and planning.  It was in this role that I could really explore tools like Google Drive, Edmodo, Facebook, and others. I used my middle school course as a lab to try out new ideas on students.  We had App Test Drive Weeks and figured out how to use Google Apps to do group projects. We introduced our Innovation Projects, using one day a week for students to work on the projects of their choosing.  At the same time, I revamped our elementary curriculum bringing in digital citizenship discussions courtesy of Common Sense Media, started using iPad apps from kindergarten up, and learned math using Sumdog.

I continued researching using Twitter and blogs, even creating my own hashtag -- #edtechex -- to help spread specific examples of using technology in classrooms.

Sadly, at the end of the school year, our new IT guy made the decision to NOT go Google and to stick with Office products. After a year of pushing Google Drive, my plans were rebuffed.  (More on that later)

Year Three (2013-2014)
I retained my triplicate role of Computer Teacher/Tech Lead/Facebook Guy, but I also got the joy of teaching a semester of Freshman health and a semester of Freshman PE. (I won't mention them beyond this point, but it's fun to throw in there.)  However, the years of discovery and trial and error have come to a close.  It's time to get serious about implementing some things.

My principal and I started to dig in to find an online math option to supplement our book curriculum and help catch us up with Common Core math. What we discovered was Accelerated Math, which we started using from 2nd through 10th grades. As AM Administrator, I get to help teachers implement all things related to AM. That includes setting up students, teachers, and classes. That includes running teacher meetings to help teachers figure out the best way to implement it.  It also includes physically sitting in three different math classes keeping things humming along.

By choosing not to use Google Drive, I am now in the process of helping students and teachers understand all that OneDrive has to offer. I'm teaching upper elementary students how to email, how to create documents and presentations, and how to collaborate on documents and share them with me. I'm now working with a small group of colleagues to figure out how to use OneNote as a means to distribute, collect, and redistribute student work.  The goal is to start utilizing OneDrive more next year to decrease the need for learning management systems such as Edmodo or Moodle.


I'll be honest. I somewhat miss the crazy cycle of read about it, try it out, use it in class, and determine if we want to keep it. I seriously doubt that I'm done adding apps and programs to our arsenal, but I'm not actively looking for them any more either. If I happen to stumble upon one I like, I'll happily unleash it upon my students and hope it sticks.

However, I much prefer to settle into some big projects and help teachers figure them out.  I literally have my dream job, and it's great to see technology take a ubiquitous seat in our classrooms.  As we become more comfortable with these big things, I will continue to push the deeper reaches of SAMR with my colleagues.

It's been an interesting three years of technology integration, and I'm looking forward to what Year Four will bring.


  1. There is nothing stopping you from using both Office 365 and Google Drive (except email can only be one).

    We are signed up for both, although I haven't imported stuudents into Office 365 since there hasn't been any demand.

    1. True. With my middle school class, many of them came to me knowing Google Docs. I made sure they could get around with OneDrive, but now I let them use either one. At this point in the ballgame, it seems most wise to focus on one but be open to both.