I have been an "Ed Tech TOSA" for the last two years, and it has been an incredible experience thus far. For those who are unfamiliar with the term TOSA, it stands for "Teacher On Special Assignment." So, basically I am a credentialed teacher, working for a school district; but, I do not have my own class full of students. The position is super flexible and really allows me to research and try new, innovative things, and encourage (and support) my fellow teachers to do the same.
The TOSA job description can vary greatly from district to district, and even from school to school. In my particular position, I work at three K-8 schools, all located on a military base. My position is funded through a grant from the Department of Defense, which is why I work at those specific schools. That same grant has been used at the three schools to purchase technology, STEM-related materials, and a brand new engineering curriculum. So, I get to provide support to teachers with implementing all of those resources in their classrooms.
I absolutely love this position because of the flexibility and opportunity for growth that it provides. I get to create my own schedule (to an extent), attend (and lead) amazing professional development opportunities, and collaborate with teachers in multiple grade levels and multiple school sites.
Although there are certain meetings and events that I must attend, I get to choose the school that I will be at each day and coordinate classroom visits as needed. Visiting a variety of classrooms and working with a range of teachers has been a valuable experience and has really fueled my love of teaching. Also, focusing on what the classroom teacher wants to learn or do in the classroom has pushed me to find creative solutions or tools to meet a variety of needs.
The professional development opportunities are another reason that I love being a TOSA. Not only do I get to attend amazing PDs, I also get to lead them. Prior to becoming a TOSA, I did not realize how much I would enjoy leading professional development for teachers. My biggest focus with leading PD, is to share something that will benefit teachers and improve their job in a positive way. Teachers have a lot on their plate (understatement) and adding "one more thing" to that plate is something that I never want to do. I'm always attempting to introduce a tool, technique, etc. that will support teachers in the work they are already doing.
A third reason that I am enjoying this position is the opportunity to collaborate with teachers in multiple grave levels and multiple school sites. When you are a classroom teacher, you spend the majority of your day in your own classroom with the same group of students, day in and day out. You do get to collaborate with your grade level team and attend staff meetings once or twice a month, but that is it! As a TOSA, I get to experience what is happening in so many classrooms and so many grade levels. It's awesome! I feel like these experiences have given me a better understanding of the learning progression from kindergarten through 8th grade. When I eventually move back in to a classroom teacher role, this will only help me deliver instruction to my class.
As an Ed Tech TOSA, I am gaining valuable experience and growing as an educator in ways that I never knew were possible. Yes, I will eventually go back into the classroom, but for now, I will be enjoying this role as a Teacher On Special Assignment.
This school year I am providing support to the teachers at three separate school sites. Because it is often difficult to meet the needs of all teachers quickly and efficiently, I began a new project this year, called "Tuesday's Two Minute EdTech Tips." Basically, I create a short, two minute video each week, highlighting a specific app or website that I think will be interesting to K-8 teachers. I then email the link and short description of the video to teachers each Tuesday.
The goal is to create videos that are super short, and provide a bite-sized introduction, so that teachers can decide whether or not the app is something they want to find out more about. Once they watch the two minute video, they can email me to set up a meeting where we can discuss the app, or I can introduce the app to both students and teacher at the same time.
So far, the feedback on the Two Minute EdTech Tips has been very positive. Teachers like that the videos are short, kind of like a two minute PD. They also like that I am available for following up on the video and supporting them in integrating the app with the learning objectives in their own classroom.
Take a minute and check out my most recent Two Minute EdTech Tip Videos, which focus on computer science and various coding apps that would be great for the Hour of Code!
Professional development opportunities for teachers can usually go one of two ways. Teachers find value and are excited about the learning during the PD, or teachers are bored as they sit through a PD that they either do not need or have heard before. part of my role this school year is to plan PD that is meaningful for teachers at the three school that I support. Much of the PD will revolve around Project Lead the Way (our new science curriculum) and the transition to Google Apps.
This month I organized an EdTech Professional Development for teachers at my three sites. The PD took place in the afternoon of a minimum day, and provided three sessions with lots of variety for teachers to choose. My goal was to give teachers choice in their learning so that they can take what they need and apply it in the classroom immediately. Organizing an event like this can be overwhelming, especially if you are doing it alone. Below I will outline the steps that I took to plan my EdTech PD event.
I began by surveying the teachers about what they needed/wanted in a PD. I created a simple Google Form for teachers to fill out that would show me what sessions I needed to include. I asked the principals at all three sites to send out the Form for me, so that (hopefully) more teachers would fill it out. I gave teachers about 1.5 weeks to complete the form, sending out a reminder email (or two).
Part of the Form included a questions about presenting a session. This was my call for volunteers, or at least my way of seeing if anyone was interested in presenting/leading a session. There were about 8 teachers that volunteered to present a session or two. That was great! I contacted those teachers to confirm the sessions that they would be comfortable leading. I even reached out to a few district level coordinators to ask them to present too!
Once I had my results from the Form and had confirmed with my presenters, I began planning the session schedule. This part was a little tricky, since I wanted to keep presenters doing multiple sessions in the same classroom. I moved the sessions and presenters around like a puzzle until the pieces fit. I also created descriptions of the sessions, so that the attendees could choose the session that was right for them.
I shared (emailed) the Schedule and Description with the teachers who would be attending about 5 days before the event. I wanted them to start planning out their afternoon, so that they could make the most of their time.
A few days before the event, I confirmed the room numbers and double-checked the technology available in those rooms (projector, connections, desktop, etc.). I also worked with the administrator at the hosting site to purchase snacks (water bottles, trail mix, granola bars) and chocolate for the day of the PD. Once everything was planned and set up, I sent a final email out to teachers (the morning of the PD) with all of the attachments they would need - schedule, descriptions, kick off slides, self-paced learning slides. I spent the morning of the PD organizing the snacks, printing out signs and maps, getting Chromebooks ready for teacher checkout, and organizing last minute details. Then, all that was left was to wait for the teachers and the PD to begin!
As summer break comes to a close, many teachers have already begun to think about the upcoming school year. Decorating classrooms, planning lessons, and searching for “first week of school” activities on Pinterest are a few things that teachers begin working on during the final weeks of vacation. If you will have technology (iPads, Chromebooks, etc.) in your classroom, you should also be thinking about how you will introduce those devices to your students. As a classroom teacher, I always liked to plan a “Boot Camp” during the first week of school to introduce my new students to the device that they would be using for the school year. The following post will include a few things to consider when introducing devices to your new class, as well as what I, personally, like to include in a device boot camp.
A Few Things to Consider
Before school begins, and you are planning your first week activities, consider the following questions regarding the devices that your students will be using. Even better, discuss these questions in your grade level planning time so that you and your teammates are on the same pages as far as expectations for devices.
What to Include in Your Device Boot Camp
During the first 1-2 weeks of the school year, I take my new students through a very detailed device boot camp. Here are some areas that I address during my device boot camp.
Include some fun “get to know you” type activities in the device boot camp. Let students practice using the device for fun, so that they become familiar with the apps that you will be using throughout the year. For example, take selfie and and type a few sentences about themselves, respond to a flipgrid prompt, post something in seesaw, create a Google slide deck as a class, etc. Start with one or two apps, then build from there. You could even do an “App of the Day” for the first couple weeks, to familiarize your students with the tools they will be using throughout the year.
Incorporating a device boot camp in your “first week of school” plans might seem overwhelming. However, in my experience, setting clear expectations with technology at the beginning of the year saves time later, and also sets students up for success. So, as you plan those team building activities, laminate homework folders, and create colorful name tags, I hope you will also plan for a device boot camp for the upcoming school year.
On May 24th, the Classroom of the Future Foundation held their annual Innovation in Education event, where teachers, schools, and districts from around San Diego were honored. The event was hosted at Sea World, with incredible food and drinks, raffle prizes, student displays, and a fabulous award ceremony. It was really exciting to hear about all of the innovative programs happening in and around San Diego county and to network with other like-minded educators.
I was extremely honored to be chosen by SDCUE as the (1st ever) Innovative TOSA, and received my award at this event.
This week I was informed that I had been selected as the 2017 SDCUE Innovative TOSA of the year! CUE stands for Computer Using Educator, and the SDCUE is the San Diego affiliate of the national CUE. I was encouraged to apply for this honor by the OUSD director of technology. I thought that it was probably a long shot, with all of the amazing educators in San Diego, but I applied anyways. I was extremely surprised and honored to be chosen for this award.
You can view my application video below!