Today’s Contributor: Melanie Hartman, CTE Teacher at Paredes Middle School, Animation 1&2/Web Design/Video Game Design/Photography Careers/Student Help Desk Facilitator
This year has been rather chaotic from start to finish. My school, Paredes Middle School, was one of five middle schools in the district to receive a grant to become a Digital Promise, Verizon Innovative Learning School (VILS). That meant that ALL my students, 6th-8th grade, would have a Chromebook that also came with 5 GB of data. This is amazing because it really levels the playing field for my students in a lower income bracket. (70% of my school has free or reduced lunch.) Students having access at home has been very helpful for teachers who are assigning homework through BLEND.
I have two student technology team Chromebook help desk classes run by my students. They have done such a good job with all aspects of implementing 1:1 technology on my campus and help make it run smoothly. My students do all check in and out, inventory, basic troubleshooting, delivery, work orders, and everything else that has to do with the Chromebooks, almost entirely on their own. They helped me present at a national VILS conference in February, too. I am so happy I have my tech students to help me out with the enormous task of Chromebook management. I also have a librarian, Mrs. Fernandez, who is an integral part of my team and helps with the management, also. If you are interested in how I run my help desk or in talking to me about setting one up at your campus email me at melanie.hartman(AT)austinisd.org.
The last three years I have taught PD’s on BLEND and a few of my teachers have really grabbed a hold of it and run with it, but it was also super hard to use BLEND in a regular classroom because of lack of devices. Unless a teacher had a laptop cart in their room at all times it was very difficult to use BLEND consistently. This year with all students having their own devices, I would say that 70% of my teachers are using BLEND throughout the year, 30% are using it daily in a truly blended learning environment, and a few are experts at blended learning and are rockstars in the district. Because of our VILS grant the Educational Technology Dept assigned Sharon Laidlaw to our campus to help with teacher training and blended learning. This has been extremely helpful with getting teachers used to using the technology. She has the time to meet with teachers, plan lessons, and model lessons or observe lessons to help on the spot. This makes the teachers more comfortable with using technology the first time in a whole group setting. As the CIC, I have offered some after school training or training during PDs and opened my classroom to be observed, but I was unable to co-teach and be in classes for support because I teach all day.
I am so proud of my teachers on campus! I have quite a few that have amazing blended learning classrooms and could be model classrooms. My students are becoming so much more tech-savvy, too. It makes me so happy to have equitable access for all my students!