This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By Lindsey Lamm, Northern Allegheny School District
In my new role in my new district as an Instructional Technology Integrator, I am tasked with helping teachers purposefully integrate technology into their lessons. This role allows me to meet with teachers, help them learn new things, and, in most cases, co-teach in their classrooms while implementing the technology. I also run pieces of professional development at both the building and district level involving technology initiatives and trends. In this role, building relationships and trust with teachers is paramount to the success of the implementation on both the teacher end and my end. However, a phrase consistently comes to my mind when presenting new technology. The phrase is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
When I was a classroom teacher, I was so bogged down with everything needed to make the day-to-day operations in the classroom run smoothly that the only time I was learning about new technology was through professional development outside of the classroom. Had I been unable to attend those conferences, I’m not sure I would have learned anything about the technology that is out there. “You don’t know what you don’t know. “ I view part of my new job as being that liaison between the classroom teacher and the new technology. If I can learn how to use the technology and bring that knowledge to classroom teachers and team up with them to co-teach, we will be successful.
I’m very lucky to be in the position I currently possess. I know this. When I am with mixed company and I tell them what I do, the job description is usually met with wishes that other schools had the same position, or that schools had more of the position to help reach more teachers. Just recently, I paired with a second grade teacher to take 360 pictures of their field trip and then allow students to annotate them with what they learned on the trip to create a Google Expedition about a week later. When I shared this project with some colleagues, it was met with enthusiasm, ideas for integration across other disciplines, ideas for incorporating this technology to help some of our students with anxiety needs, and the phrase, “I didn’t even know you could do that.”
I think the most important thing I learned this school year is the value of sharing the work we do in the classroom AT THE DISTRICT LEVEL. We are not helping ourselves if we only share what happens at the elementary school in the elementary world, middle school in the middle school world, and high school in the high school world. I think it’s important for elementary teachers to see what is happening at the high school level to help guide expectations. I think it is just as important for high school teachers to see what elementary students are doing to help with expectations. I think it’s important to go into these discussions with the expectation of learning what others are doing, not integrating every piece of technology into the classroom. OSMO products, for instance, are not a great fit for the middle/high school world. However, the coding and problem solving skills learned by kindergarten and first graders certainly can help guide block coding expectations in Scratch or even Raspberry Pie and Python.
The idea of sharing out what we do in our classrooms helps alleviate the problem of not knowing what we don’t know. Sharing sessions allow for teachers to be invigorated when they do see something that could work. I would argue, after my time this year, that sharing sessions are as important to the work of a teacher as workshops learning how a piece of technology or new product works. You’ll always not know what you don’t know. Being exposed to the unknown, though, allows for familiarity in every sense.