Hitting my stride

December 7, 2013 § 3 Comments

It’s been 4 months since I started my new job as the Technology Director for La Vernia ISD. There have been times over the last 4 months where I felt more than overwhelmed. There have been times that I felt downright under-qualified. The transition from one leader to another is always fraught with bumps in the road, but having almost 6 weeks between when the previous director retired and I was brought on board made for some rather large potholes.

My staff has done a great job of filling me in where they know the answers, and the previous director has been kind enough to answer my frantic emails wondering where things are located, but it has been a little more rocky than I would have preferred. Such is life in a small school district, though. So many times people take on multiple jobs and when they leave the district, their knowledge of how those jobs were done leaves with them.

I do feel, though, like I’m finally starting to hit a stride and be able to make a plan for moving forward. I’ve found that when you’re taking someone’s place, especially someone who was there for a very long time (in this case 15+ years), you have to deal with the “this is the way the previous guy did it” a lot.

But knowing what I need and being able to justify it for the good of the district, for the educational value to our students, is what I’m going to focus on for the next several months. I’m learning to let go of the need to be in classrooms on a weekly basis, because if I don’t let that go other things simply don’t get done.

I don’t want to lose my connection to the classroom, but I do know that I’m going to have to cut back on how often I wanted to visit classrooms, at least until I can get some key personnel in place.

I also have other plans. Big plans. Last month, we provisioned Google Apps accounts for every adult in the district. This week, we released directions for everyone to get in, and in January, we’ll start some training. I sat with one of our principals for 45 minutes yesterday going over some how-to’s and general use cases for Google Docs. He was very excited to get started with it. I also had a teacher this week ask me about using it with her 5th grade students. I told her that we’d be thrilled to have her as one of our beta testers for student use. I’m encouraged by this response and excited by the possibilities.

We’ll be evaluating other online tools throughout the year to see if we can make the jump to a more cloud based district. We just launched our online application portal last week, and we’re moving toward an online sub finder system this spring.

From a device standpoint we also have 5 Chromebooks on the way that we’re going to put in student hands to have them try out. I’m going to try to diversify our student devices a bit. I’m looking at Nexus tablets, Windows 8 tablets, iPad minis, even iPod touches. But before we put any of that in to play, we have to rethink how we manage these devices. Apple is driving me to drink with their device “management.” Trying to manage iPads for multiple users is a flat out nightmare. Apple has wholly failed in this respect. They like to tout that they’re all about education, but they refuse to come up with a decent fix for managing iPads. So we have to think out of the box on this, and try to come up with the best use case scenario that’s going to work for our campuses. From now on, when we buy devices, we’re looking at the management piece first, then beta testing with one campus or maybe even just one classroom, then we’ll decide if it’s worth it to move forward with those types of devices.

Our high school librarian is looking at purchasing furniture with built in charging stations so students can use their devices during class and come to recharge in the library. We have BYOD in place, but from discussions I’ve had with people, it seems as though it’s very limited in classroom use. I’d like our teachers to feel free to have their students use their devices, and having convenient charging areas is a step toward helping with that. We also need to have more staff development on the philosophy around student-centered learning, which I think would lead to more students using their devices in class.

Being able to make these plans is a big step for me as a director. Having solid research behind what we buy means that we’re not going to jump in with the newest and greatest until we can see that it will help improve education for our students.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but I’m looking forward to the journey and being able to learn from everyone along the way.

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