So, I have been quiet lately. Working harder than ever. Learning more than ever. The plan for the year was for Cherie and I to soak up every drop of knowledge that R.L. (builder & king of the Warren ISD technology movement) so kindly bequeathed upon us. Man, it was hard. Fast-paced and never ending. My brain hurt(s). He shook his head a lot at my lack of understanding (if you know him you are picturing this right now), but he had faith in me. He didn’t give up. He is absolutely one of the best mentors anyone could possibly have, and for that I am grateful. Most of this year I have been in survival mode with the words of Dori moving me along the way, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” Cherie and I have cried (a lot), we’ve laughed (a lot), we’ve failed (a lot), and we have learned (a lot). Through the past months there are four things that I have come to stand upon as truths and hope for the future of the Warren ISD Technology Department: R.L. built an amazing foundation for Warren ISD that will last for decades to come, Cherie can seriously figure out anything (genius level), I love to learn and get to learn new things every single day, and that the previous combination will ensure that Warren ISD will continue to grow in the area of technology.
One new endeavor that Cherie and I have been working endlessly on is a way to help teachers alleviate some of the stressors that come with having twenty students in a classroom with the world at their fingertips, which sometimes can be a good thing – and sometimes it can be a [bad] thing. Without using a bunch of technological jargon that makes me sound a lot more intelligent than I am – let me talk about our latest venture. We have purchased a management system for our school’s iPads called JAMF. In short, JAMF can help schools inventory, deploy, and secure each iPad that they have purchased with ease. We knew going into this project that it would be a huge undertaking. We also knew that it would be well worth it. Once we have completed the initial push the whole process of iPads will become smoother for us and for the teachers. When we decided to go ahead with JAMF we looked at the system from two points of view: the teachers and the students.
1.Teaches have a job to do, and they are incredibly passionate individuals that work hard and spend long hours planning out how to execute the perfect lesson for their students. Teachers are preparing future community members, doctors, engineers, etc. for a world that is in a constant state of change. We have TEKS and curriculum and testing and the list goes on and on. And more often than not, we feel like there just is not enough time in the day to get it all completed. Teachers need students to be focused on schoolwork during class time so that they can be successful; however, we gave the students iPads, which made them privy to social media and games and videos. Thus, taking their minds off of class work and on to more “interesting” subjects. Teachers need students to pay attention, so that they are able to prepare them for their future. After all, Snap Chatting the class period away won’t get you an A on an exam. The quote “There is a time and place for everything” rings true. A time to learn and a time to pin. A time to test and a time to “selfie.” I digress.
2. We want learning to be fun. We want to capture students’ attention. We want them to be creative, out of the box thinkers. So, we give them an iPad. We want them to WANT to use the iPad. We want the iPad to enhance their learning in a way that will prepare them for this crazy technology-driven world that we live in. We want learning to be at their fingertips. We do not want them to hate the iPad, so we (the tech department) are adamant that students do not lose their freedom per say. We don’t want to take their app store away, or their music, or their games. If we did then the iPad would merely be a textbook. They would not take ownership of the iPad. We want students to become good digital citizens. We want to teach students to make the right choices. We don’t want to make the right choices for them. So, we left the app store and the music and the social media. Because these things are not bad. They just need to be used (and taught) appropriately. Because “There is a time and a place for everything”.
So, the solution that we found is JAMF. This allows teachers to “Focus” students in on one thing at a time. If a teacher decides that students need to work in Google Slides for the class period then JAMF will allow this to happen. No straying to Instagram or Pinterest while you should be working on a project. However, when students leave that class and go to lunch, or home, or to the library they can then access their music and games and apps. They are free to dream big on Pinterest or design their dream country on Minecraft. It seems to be the perfect medium for teachers and students.
We are still working out the kinks and learning more about this program every single day. We are anticipating it to be a successful new component to the WISD Technology Initiative. We will certainly let you know.