Back in Time . . .
So as I have seen many bloggers and EdTech friends start wrapping up their year with summer advice and year end prep and review, I will follow the path blazed before me and do the same. This year was my first year as a Technology Integration Specialist, or in the vernacular, a TOSA. It has been a long year, not only because all of the things that I am doing now are newer, but just the odd sense of the surreal at being out of the classroom. Let see what I have learned along the way.
First off, I must say that I have had to improve my organizational skills 1000 fold. Not that I was disorganized to begin with, but if I didn’t have some training on Outlook calendars and how to share them, I would have pulled my hair out just trying figure out my days. Biggest lesson learned- travel time needs to be built into appointments. Found out that one the hard way.
Next, I have never been to so many trainings, nor did I know I needed them! From Cognitive Coaching training to Office 365 Learning Leaders, at times I felt like I was jumping from training to training, with little time in between to practice anything I was learning. It started in August and I just finished up with my last trainings May 10. I know a lot more about things I need to know for this new position, and my hope is that I can put those new skills to more use next year. (crosses-fingers)
When I wasn’t in training, I did get to do some awesome tech integration. Some of the projects I helped with were green-screen projects, iMovie trailers, coding in the classroom, trained teachers on Haiku (our LMS), and help troubleshoot a bunch of things and get teachers the help they needed. It was a very fulfilling part of the job, and it helped me get over that melancholy of missing the classroom. Yeah I miss my class, and my kids, and my curriculum even (HS Ts can relate, amIright?) but I got to go into classes I never would have otherwise, and see some amazing teachers deliver some awesome tech lessons. I look forward to more of this next year!
I also had to get used to what I have coined “The Uncomfortable Art of Selling Yourself.” This year, much more than ever before (and more vigorously too) it seems I was having to define, redefine and even defend my new role. It is a period of transition, in my district and in many districts across the nation, and these new TOSA, specialist, classroom-less teachers will take some getting used to. But for whatever reason, some parts of our Union decided TOSAs weren’t really teachers, and therefore didn’t get protection under our contract. Yeah, I know. Teacher is the first initial, but what can you do? That gem was dropped on day two, and since then it has been a PR extravaganza, to sell our usefulness and values to the teachers, the active parent groups who questioned the expenditures, and to the board of education who was getting the questions form parent, teachers and admin alike. I got really good a marketing, creating a brand for our little bunch of TOSAs, naming our wing the “Bassett Innovation Center” (BIC for short) and our dog-bone shaped desk “the dog pound.” We branded merchandise, and giveaways, and even had an open house. Our Superintendent went to bat for the positions, our direct boss has our back 1000%, and as the pressure eased around April, it felt good to be in what Simon Sinek called the circle of safety. The TOSAs all put our back together, put our horns out, and became a team. I’m proud of the work we have done, but more proud of the team we have made. That team spirit will take us farther than anything we could do on our own.
This past year I was able to attend a few conferences as well. In Oct. we went to FallCUE, and I came away with my head bursting with ideas, filled with tech inspirations and aspirations that are still driving me today. So inspired was I that when I got back, I immediately put a conference request in for National CUE for the BIC team. It also inspired a rededication to podcasting. Michael Jephcott and I said “we have something to share, and we think people will listen. If not for our own district, for the wider educational community.” At present, we are 15 podcasts and 10 screencasts in. (follow this link if you are curious). At CUE16 I was able to see the inspiration I felt reflected in my colleagues. After each day of the conference, we stood up well into the night talking about all we had seen and wanted to bring back. We grew our PLCs though twitter (#connectedtl #tosachat #edtechafterdark #caedchat) participating in twitter chats and Voxer groups. Thanks for helping me grow and cultivating my growth mindset. You get credit for at least half of my accomplishments this year, and you were always there to help and give advice/recommendations/ideas. We truly are better together.
Lastly, (I’ll wrap it up, it’s getting long) I got to experience a new category of work this year called “Other Duties as Assigned.” This is where your boss sticks all those extras that don’t quite fit into your job description. This is also where you can show your drive and determination, your inspirations and wild and crazy ideas. Mine came in the form of digital badging and LCAP presentation. Inspired by CUE and being the first to get the coveted Social Media Mastery Badge, I
proposed we bring badging to my district. I had to wrap up my craziness into a LEAN template, and present it to the Principals, and they loved it. A special thanks needs to go out to #badgechatk12, @RichEdTech and #CateTolnai for their help. LCAP presentations were wrapped in iMovie Trailers, and we had evidence for each of our areas. We placed these on iPads and in stands for parents to browse. It was a big hit, and had become a standard for sharing information and soliciting feedback from our community.
Looking back, this year was hard. There were times I wished I was in the classroom, with my kids and my curriculum, where I knew what I was doing and had been doing it for years. Then there were times where I couldn’t wait to come to work on Monday to finish working on a plan, record a podcast, or do a training. I love my job, hardship, trainings, worry and all, and I plan on making next year even better. This is an awesome opportunity, and though the crap, I am grateful for it all.