Yesterday I had an opportunity to join a group of ten educators from Sweden in a tour of Yarmouth High School, in Yarmouth Maine. Yarmouth students, teachers and administrators have participated in the MLTI (Maine Learning Technology Initiative) for the past eight years. Alice Barr is the technology integrator at Yarmouth High School, and Cathy Wolinsky is the tech integrator at the middle and elementary schools in Yarmouth. This 10.5 minute video is an interview with Alice and Cathy, discussing the roles as well as importance of technology integrators (certified teachers) in immersed technology environments.

There are so many insightful nuggets of wisdom in this video! Alice and Cathy both discuss the importance of teacher assignments in 1:1 and tech immersed environments, over time, shifting from rubrics focusing “on the technology” to rubrics focusing “on the learning.” Teachers in Yarmouth now provide students with more CHOICE over how they demonstrate mastery of learning in different courses and content areas. After projects, students and teachers discuss and reflect on their projects to identify the strategies and tools which were used most effectively to communicate learning.

The concept of teachers having “a minimum web presence” in Yarmouth schools is also addressed well by Cathy, starting at 9:38 in the video. A basic web presence for teachers in Yarmouth is not optional, but the focus of having a website of some kind with information is NOT the technology or the technology tool. The focus at the elementary level, according to Cathy, is on “broadening the authorship for kids” and “communicating the learning” to parents as well as the community. With instructional leaders like Alice and Cathy assisting teachers in Yarmouth at all levels, it’s no mystery why Yarmouth was named an Apple Distinguished School for 2009-2010.

This is a phenomenal interview, and I hope you’ll take the time to both watch and share it. In addition to following both Alice and Cathy on Twitter, I encourage you to subscribe to Yarmouth High School’s YouTube Channel, and visit the wide variety of teacher websites at Yarmouth High School, Middle School, and elementary schools (Yarmouth Elementary and William H. Rowe.) The wiki of Yarmouth High School biology teacher, Julie Raines, is only a year old but is one of the best examples of a teacher instructional website I’ve seen to date.

I took more videos during our visit and tour yesterday in Yarmouth which I’ll be uploading soon and will add to my YouTube channel or Flickr set for the day. I recorded all my videos yesterday with an iPhone 4. As I am with the iPad, I’m amazed with how powerful and “magical” it truly is. Who would have imagined a videographer could carry so much power in a pocket?!

Does your school and school district provide certified, full-time technology integrators / facilitators in each building to support teachers using technology effectively within instruction? This is a litmus test for school leaders serious about twenty-first century learning, student engagement, and differentiated instruction. It’s clear administrators, school board members, and the community in Yarmouth are serious about the success as well as impact of their laptop learning and technology immersion initiatives. How about your town or city?

Unfortunately in today’s budget-challenged schools, some short sighted administrators (lacking a comprehensive vision for school change and engaged learning) decide to cut vital positions like technology integrators. Sadly, this is not a new trend. In April 2001 I wrote, “Proposal for Elementary Technology Integration Reform: Facilitators and Technician-Aides” (PDF) when I was a teacher in Lubbock ISD in Texas. At that time, our new superintendent decided certified staff were not needed in computer labs, and should all be replaced (by attrition) by lower-wage earning teacher-aides instead. As Alice and Cathy discuss in this video, it’s vital certified teachers be available to coach other teachers in the process of integrating technology. In 2001 when I wrote that proposal, it was summarily ignored by the administration. My controversial 1999 TechEdge article, “Wagging the Dog in Educational Technology:
Elevating ‘IT’ Into the Classroom,
” was also dismissed by district leaders. (It did lead to an uncomfortable tongue-lashing meeting with my superintendent and principal, but did not lead to any constructive change at the time in educational technology purchasing policies or support practices.) I mention this history because Alice and Cathy’s explanation of how important technology integrators are to support blended learning in schools has become even more relevant in 2010 than it was in 1999 and 2001. District leaders holding the purse strings for our educational budgets need to understand this importance, so they they can put their money where their mouth is when it comes to talking about student learning, student engagement, and professional development for teachers.

Cathy Wolinsky, Sarah and Alice Barr

See my text notes from Alice Barr’s breakout sessions, “The 21st Century Teachers’ Toolkit” and “Digital Citizenship for our Schools” at the the 2010 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire, for more background about the exemplary ways educators as well as students at Yarmouth are learning with technology.

Many thanks to Alice and Cathy for this interview, and for all the work of students, teachers, and others at Yarmouth and in MLTI who shared during our outstanding tour yesterday!

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  • Alice Barr

    It was wonderful to have you and Sarah visit our school. Thank you for your wonderful post! The students loved your questions and challenges. Thanks again!

  • http://sharonsshare.blogspot.com Sharon Betts

    What a great post – two of my favorite integrators with a lot of insight. I plan on playing this for my Admin team and sending it to the school board. We have moved to a team-teaching model of integration with technology no long external to curriculum. This helps to validate the need for my team of fabulous certified teachers.
    Thanks to all three of you.

  • Jon

    I was saddened to see that a number of the teachers’ websites have not been updated since September.

  • Alice Barr

    Jon:
    As we explained in the video, there is a minimum web presence for teachers. They may make a website in August/September but only update homework and assignments during the year. Some teachers do most of their updating through Powergrade and link to assignments directly in the portal. Only students and parents can see the portal pages. Other teachers use their websites as a text book and update with more frequency. New teachers often find it a bit over whelming at first to try to keep all the places they could post up to date. The bottom line is that these online sites serve a purpose, but the purpose has to work for both the teacher and students.

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