As students are being introduced to new ways to use their Chromebooks and other educational tools, teachers are being offered one-on-one help of their own to manage the influx of new technology.
In the 2015-2016 school year, a committee in the Medford Township School District met to discuss long-term curriculum, budgeting, personnel and community relations goals for technology. Two positions came out of those meetings, with one being educational technology coordinator that year, and the next being the instructional technology coach, which was posted and filled by former Medford teacher Christy Green.
“They needed somebody who’s sole purpose it is to help when they need it,” said Mark Damon, educational technology coordinator. “It just took a while for us to get to the point of being able to do that because of budget reasons.”
Prior to joining the central office’s position, Green said she worked in the district for the past 18 years in the classroom, and in STEM for kindergarten through fifth-grade.
As a self-proclaimed early adopter to technology, Green said she recognizes how useful new technology is for teachers and when it’s not necessary in lessons. She added when helping teachers learn about the concepts of technology and its effectiveness in a classroom, she’s reminded of the “four C’s” educators abide by during lessons: creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
“They’re important for students to grow, and through using technology, we can focus on those four things and lift that area of learning that they’re already doing in the classroom with technology,” Green said.
At the moment, Green is working with second-grade classrooms and Medford Memorial Middle School’s social studies classes to help them teach and integrate apps and devices in their lessons, when needed.
While there are teachers who are excited to get the next hottest device in their classroom or to test the latest app or website, Green said she recognizes there are just as many teachers who are not well-versed in technology and who also struggle with it.
To assist those struggling, she said she’ll meet with those teachers to learn what the students’ learning objectives are and what the teacher is currently doing, and then build on the skills they already have to help students succeed.
“Our curriculum drives instruction,” Damon added. “We teach reading, writing, social studies, science and math. Our goal is to say ‘how can we do it better by infusing technology into the classroom?'”
Damon added it’s also an empowering lesson for students when they’re able to teach their teacher how to use something and they bond over that event.
As parents become increasingly aware of their child’s screentime, Green said, as a parent, there’s a difference when a device is being used for leisure as opposed to “quality time that sparks other learning and interest” unrelated to technology.
She also added there are subjects in school where using a smartboard, a Chromebook or an app in Google’s web suite wouldn’t be appropriate.
“Every subject has a space for collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking,” she said. “If my tool, whatever it may be, can lift those things, then it fits. Conversely, in every subject, there’s a time when technology is not going to fit as well.”
Being a former teacher in the district, Green said it’s helpful for an educator have the appropriate support they need to help their students succeed, and that the district recognizes there’s a need for someone to be that support system.
“Our district realizes that they’ve invested an enormous amount of capital hardware in the classrooms, that it would throw money into the wind if we don’t have somebody who could help the teachers feel comfortable about putting it into their instructions,” Damon said.
As the year progresses, Green said she’s focusing more on building relationships with the educators in a variety of ways so they know she’s a reliable source of information.
“A teacher’s day is filled with so many things every single minute,” Green said. “If I can take a little bit off of their plates and say ‘you’re interested in knowing how to do this, let me gather everything you need and then come back to you,’ that is what’s most exciting for me.”