I am the Help Desk

I was on a roll there for a while, meaning I got all the way to page 85 without stopping to write a post. And then page 85 happened.  

For 10 years I have been an Instructional Technology Specialist. INSTRUCTIONAL. A word I kept emphasising over and over to my campuses. I think every tech coach has this battle with curriculum vs. wires and pliers. You arrive on a campus with a specific agenda in mind and then you get hit with a multitude of technical issues. Next thing you know, 80% of your day has been spent unplugging and plugging SMARTboards, fixing Outlook issues and trying to figure out why an iPad is no longer connecting to the network. “What Did the Help Desk Say?” was actually our mantra one year. 

Empathy is a word you hear over and over again in The Innovator’s Mindset. I have to remember that technology is my specialty. It’s what I do every single day. Troubleshooting to me is very easy because that’s what my day is filled with. Teachers, on the other hand, juggle 10 things at one time. They don’t have the luxury of perfecting the art of troubleshooting like I do.  Once I read page 85 (and highlighted every sentence) a lightbulb went off in my head. Where has my empathy been?

” The educators we serve need the tools and resources to work if we truly want to create a culture of innovation. They also need to feel our support in creating an environment that we would truly want to be in as learners ourselves.” ~ George Couros

You’ll notice there is a new page in the main navigation menu on this blog. Tech Tips will be a new section dedicated to empowering teachers with the basic skills needed to navigate these treacherous technology waters in which we expect them to swim. I will provide quick tutorials and fixes for specific issues I observe in the classroom environment on a daily basis. My new mantra?

I am the help desk. 

Stop Stammering

It’s going to take me forever to finish reading The Innovator’s Mindset. George Couros continues to provide examples of innovation in education, which forces me to put down the book and look something up on the computer. In chapter 2, he refers to the television reality series, Educating Yorkshire, in which Musharaf Asghar overcomes a stammering disability with the help of his teacher. Mr. Burton tries a technique he saw in The King’s Speech, a film starring Colin Firth. Watch the video below to witness this incredible journey.

According to Merriam-Webster, stammer means: to make involuntary stops and repetitions in speaking. I think back to my first few…maybe 10, years of teaching. I found myself repeating the same techniques and strategies that didn’t work over and over again, just like a stammer. I was burying my students in ineffective worksheets and isolated activities on a daily basis. Now, in my defense, this was way before the era of technology integration. All we had were pencils and a Xerox machine. But, we did have our minds. Why wasn’t my mind working back then to be innovative when it came to delivering content and meeting the needs of all of my diverse learners? I have often said during trainings that I wish I could contact my first few classes and apologize for how terrible I was as their teacher.

Now, as a technology specialist, my job is to train teachers on how to use technology to support the curriculum. I’m realizing that technology can be just a fancy, pancy substitution for pencils and Xerox machines. It’s not about the tools you have at your disposal. It’s about your innovative mindset.

I get it. Do you?

Be More Dog

For the past 5 summers I’ve been the tech troubleshooter for my district’s summer school campuses. This year I decided to take a break from everything, including blogging, Twitter and Facebook. I picked up several books (real honest to goodness books made from paper) that I had been meaning to read for a while and got busy. The first was The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. I didn’t even get past chapter 1 without reactivating my Twitter account to reengage in my PLN. It was that inspiring. Then on page 6, George recommends viewing a commercial from O2 titled “Be More Dog”. Let me save you the trouble of looking it up. 

This video resonated with me in so many ways. It made me think about the reaction of other cats had they been in this video as well. What would they have been thinking, saying, or doing in response to this one particular cat who wants to “be more dog”? Then I thought about the metaphor it represents. When you have one teacher on a campus that is looking at educating students from an entirely different perspective, how do the other teachers on that campus react? Do they embrace this change of mindset and try to emulate the behavior, or do they snub their noses at the thought and “remain a cat”? (Don’t get me wrong, I love cats)

This is where I find the whole educational system so frustrating. On page 5, George writes,

“Compliance does not foster innovation. In fact, demanding conformity does quite the opposite.” ~ The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros

This quote, I think, was aimed toward students. However, I’m looking at it from the perspective of the district/teacher relationship. I see districts demanding conformity from educators and almost punishing those that strive to grow and try new tools, strategies, or techniques that don’t come from central office. Now, I must confess that I have not finished the book because I felt so compelled to get back on the Internet to begin this discussion. I’m sure he goes into great detail about how to accomplish this paradigm shift, but I still want to ask these questions: How does a school or district move towards an innovator’s mindset when faced with opposition? What has worked for you in your school or district? I would love to get honest feedback in the comments section because I honestly don’t know the answer.  

Thank you, George. You got me blogging again.