Today I went on a job shadow with Susan Reynolds, the digital technology coach at Monroe County Community School Corporation (MSSCS). Ms. Reynolds is one of two tech coaches who travel around the 12 elementary school in Bloomington. She goes back and forth between the six Title 1 schools in the district. She’s only been a tech coach with MCCSC for three years and before she came here, she was a high school English teacher in Kokomo. She went to a small technology seminar at Ball State that changed her career. Since the audience was so small, she got to work closely with education technology experts and it inspired her to incorporate it into her classroom. Unfortunately, when she got back to her school there was a lot of push back from the administration to using technology in the school. Eventually, she got her students to do writing e-Portfolios and other online projects. They were so successful in her class, the same administration that was originally against it, asked her to train other teachers to do the same thing. She said she doesn’t really know when she became a tech coach because it was just a gradual change in her career. She only came to Bloomington for a change of scenery.
I met her at Arlington Heights Elementary at 11:45. At Arlington, the teachers all have iPads, grades K through 2 have enough iPads to work in small groups and grades 3 through 6 are a one-to-one iPads. The younger grades should be getting one-to-one iPads in the next year or two. Ms. Reynolds told me the teachers generally think it’s a good thing, but there are some teachers who don’t use the iPads effectively. As the tech coach, she does not solve technical problems, but will help with small problems that can be solved with a quick Google search or phone call. Ms. Reynolds also has to deal a lot with apps and getting students to locate them quickly because it can take the students a lot of time to find the right app or iPad website. To solve this problem, she created a website that compiles all of the iPad friendly sites and all of the apps she uses on to one website called iPad-Friendly K-6 Sites. This website is very convenient to start class and get all of the students on the same page.
In the three and a half hours I was there, Ms. Reynolds worked with two classes every Thursday, one 3rd grade class and one 2nd grade class. In the 3rd grade class, she does iPad work since they all have their own. Today they worked on ISTEP practice problems (the website can be found on Ms. Reynold’s websites). Apparently, the ISTEP test will also have an iPad format, but they want to give the students a chance to practice with the tools so that won’t have too much of an affect their test scores. They modeled one reading comprehension question. Ms. Reynolds read an article about geocaching and as she did this she demonstrated the tools the students would have access to, which were a bookmark, highlighter, and eraser. During this time, the classroom teacher co-taught with Ms. Reynolds.
After they finished this question, they worked on Front Row math. Each student worked independently on their math problems. This app automatically differentiates the math problems based on the students’ ability level. Today they were working on base ten numbers. This app also has manipulatives the students can use, such as number lines and base ten blocks. I walked around while the students were doing this to ask how they liked doing this. All of the students said they like this method of doing math much better than paper and pencil. This sort of made me laugh because doing the problems is literally the exact same as working them out on paper, but the students just love using their iPads. They were telling me all about how they solve the problems using the white board and they can earn coins every time they get a problem right. The students can use those coins to buy items to dress their pig up. One little girl was telling me that she is saving up for a white dress for her pig. This immediate reward seems like it really motivates the students to keep working. A boy I talked to talk me he was blowing through some problems and that he was really good at it because sometimes he just works on it at home. It was really awesome to hear that the students enjoyed the app so much they wanted to do math at home without it being assigned.
The second class I sat in on was a 2nd grade class. They worked in the computer lab because they don’t all have iPads. Ms. Reynolds told me a good chunk of the beginning of class would be spent trying to get the students logged on since they don’t all know their usernames and passwords. This was true and even with three adults in the room, I still had to help about six of the 21 students log on. I will definitely remember this for the future and make sure I account for time to get all of the younger students on the same page. For the majority of the class the students played Big Universe. Everyone seemed to love it and they really enjoyed the read aloud books. We ran out of time to do the augmented reality Ms. Reynolds wanted to do. So instead of getting to color the worksheet, she just skipped straight to the augmented reality app called colAR. This app allows you to print out a worksheets for the students to color and then it will animate the picture and make it come to life. The 2nd graders absolutely loved thisprogram. They kept trying to touch the animation, which unfortunately, stopped it. It would probably have worked better if they all had to stay in their seats, but it was nice to see the students so interested.
At the end of the job shadow, I helped Ms. Reynolds copy two songs from a CD onto the shared drive for the Veteran’s Day celebration. She hadn’t done it in a while and asked if I knew how to do it, then she let me try. I stumbled through it, but eventually figured it out. She was impressed by how easy it was and asked me to create a job aid for it. She then emailed it to Karen Bennett who originally asked for the songs to be put into the shared drive.
One of the concerns I’ve noticed repeatedly coming up in my IU class is — what options are available to students who don’t have Wi-Fi at home but need to work on online assignments. Ms. Reynolds told me there was a grant at Fairview Elementary that allowed students to take home a hotspot for six weeks. Unfortunately, this grant has been suspended because they found out there is no way to filter what the students are looking at with the hotspot at home and part of the grant required the information the students were looking at and searching for was filtered to be school appropriate. She also told me that students who didn’t have Wi-Fi could download all of the assignments and course work to the iPad so it could be worked on offline. I thought these were good solutions for the time being.
This was the first time I really got to see a tech coach in action. I learned that for the younger grades it can be kind of difficult to be more than a computer lab teacher. It takes so long to get them all set up because you almost have to do every students individually. I also realized that sometimes you have to do easy tasks for people because they don’t want to take the time to find out the answer themselves. However, I would much rather be a tech coach than a technician because tech coaches actually get to work with students as opposed to updating iPads the majority of the day. I really enjoyed this job shadow and felt like I learned a lot more about what a day in the life of a tech coach.
After seeing how much these students enjoyed using the iPads and computers, I really feel technology is a benefit to the classroom. The students were excited to do math and read. They also told me they would work on it at home without the teacher assigning it. It was great to see how engaged the students were in a real life situation and not just a promo video of a certain app. This has definitely inspired me to continue down the technology path because the students really want to work on the task at hand a stay on task. Even with the ISTEP practice the students kept asking if they could work ahead. I’ve never heard about that with any standardized testing. Usually the students can’t wait to stop. It was refreshing to see students that wanted to do their school work and were working really hard on it.
(Image 1: https://sites.google.com/a/mccsc.net/ipads/)
(Image 3: http://colarapp.com/gallery/)