As the landscape for teachers, coaches, and administrators change in education with a formal push towards common core and 21st century classrooms, there is a great opportunity to bring Information Technology staff along for the ride. Historically, Information Technology staff in schools did not have many opportunities for formal professional development. Organizations like CETPA were the only one of its kind delivering professional development occurring annually at their conference. Relying on the tech industry for professional development was often challenging because technology in schools is not the same as technology in private industry. Many IT shops in education have relied on internal professional development to meet the needs of a very curious hungry workforce. I personally know many IT professionals in schools who spend the bulk of their free time learning new tools that help them become more efficient in their work delivering seamless solutions to classrooms.
In January 2015 I took the position of Chief Technology Officer for Dublin Unified in Dublin California. It was a brand new position and part of the job description was defined by setting vision for the department in delivering services to staff and students. With a background in educational technology delivering professional development to teachers in other districts, I jumped at the opportunity to innovate with a new team.
In my first month, I set two hour meetings with staff individually to create professional development goals for the year. The conversation was introduced by encouraging department staff to dedicate two hours a week to a topic that would benefit them professionally in the workplace. Those goals would be achieved in a timeline with milestones and communication with leadership around needs. In two hours a week, many staff worked toward certification in key areas that benefited the team and the district overall. Those individual meetings also helped me understand what was needed for the whole team. This wall of certificaitons didn’t exist prior to the spring of 2015.
I then began outlining an effort to convert department meetings to professional development opportunities. In our weekly meeting occurring weekly for an hour+, there is rarely a time when we cover nuts and bolts. Team based thinking, processing, and topics are introduced to support one another and the district overall. Examples of some of the department meeting topics are as follows:
WiFi deep dive
Running projects as a team
Identify site needs via a gallery walk
Good old-fashioned customer service
In May of 2015, site Computer Technicians went to the Friday Makerfaire event geared towards educators. This was the department introduction to the Maker model that we are now moving towards as a department to be equipped to support sites that are moving to 21st-century project-based learning. Fast forward one year and the whole department will be attending as a team. We are procuring a 3-D printer, MakeyMakey kits, Little Bit’s, Arduino’s, Rasberry Pi’s, Spheros, & breadboards all as a result of this initial exposure. We are one step ahead of our school sites and will be prepared to provide support and teach alongside our teacher counterparts.
That is a first for our department! Another example of focused professional development occurred in December 2015. The whole team embarked upon a competitive hour of code with the only goal of being able to turn around and support sites that wanted to offer hour of code to the student body. To date, one Computer Technician in the department has teamed up with a teacher leading hour of code for Title I students in an afterschool format. We are only beginning to scratch the potential of becoming a service based organization that can add value to the classroom beyond hardware tech support.
Shifting the culture of the department has been met positively by the majority of team members. The spark has been lit in some staff that are veteran as an additional outcome. No longer are we considered the tech that can fix your computer, rather wear now seen as a value add to the organization. I’ll keep you posted as we move forward on this very exciting topic with classified staff in a K-12 public school district. #Speak IT