SchoolCIO Profile: Patrick Higgins
Name: Patrick Higgins
Title: Supervisor of
Caldwell (NJ) Public
Tell us some of your edtech goals.
I am just starting in this position,
and I’m walking into a lot of things
already happening. The district is completing
a virtualization of the network;
we’ll be going with thin client terminals
at all buildings. We’ll save a lot
of money by not replacing machines.
In fact, the district presented a zeropercent
budget increase to the town.
I approach my job from the educational
side. I pushed for a BYOD
program. We’ll be opening up a wireless
network that’s just for students
and isn’t connected to the internal
network. They can bring in laptops,
tablets, iPads, smartphones, etc.
How do your teachers use social
media for professional development
and in their classes?
I introduce teachers to Twitter
(www.twitter.com) to show teachers
how they can access the work other
teachers are doing. Teachers post
great stuff and you can follow the
hashtags that are education-related.
In the classroom, teachers have
used Facebook for outside events. For
instance, AP teachers use it to post
resources and to form study groups
outside of school. One of the biggest
bangs they can get with social media
is using it to crowdsource information.
Last year, we found Edmodo (www.edmodo.com). It’s unbelieveable! It
looks and acts like Facebook but
it’s completely safe. My former
school has a domain and the middle
and high school teachers use it
all the time.
I’m trying to get more teachers
to use an aggregator tool called
Scoop.it (www.scoop.it). Our students
need to read more nonfiction
than before, because of Common
Core requirements. We have to provide
high-quality, engaging choices. We
can use Scoop.it to curate on topics
and build up a repository of high-end
nonfiction articles for kids to read. It’s
these kinds of things that social media
lets us do.
What do you say to the teachers who
think social media is a waste of time?
When I’m working with these tools,
I try and imagine what I’ll say to the
teacher who asks why this is valuable?
I design from that question backward.
That’s how I approach technology in
general and, especially, social media.
You have to find the value in it.
I’m starting to really wonder about
that law in Missouri banning social
media with students. It’s like blaming
the pencil for writing the note. You ban
the tool because of the behavior. A key
role we’ll have to play, whether we like
it or not, is to teach others to behave
appropriately. We miss the boat if we
ban those interactions.
There are so many great social media
resources. How do you personally
keep up with your network?
Keeping up with the network is an
ongoing process, one that—due to the
changes that happen in social technology—
I revise all the time. I use three
tools to keep me in the loop: Google
Reader, Twitter, and Diigo Groups.
Google Reader for the stalwarts—the
people I’ve been reading for years now
that really are clued into changes in
education and educational technology.
Twitter never stops astounding me with
the amount of information being shared
in the form of links and redirects to
outstanding information. Diigo Groups I
like to think of as the gateway drug for a
lot of the teachers I work with, as email
is something we can all handle at this
point. Joining a Diigo Group is a painless
process, and depending on the activity
level of the group, the resources you find
on a daily basis are tremendous.
What tips would you offer to teachers in
best managing their social media time?
The ease with which you can be
sucked down the proverbial rabbit hole
while on social media is unprecedented.
A five-minute foray into Twitter
can turn quickly into a lost hour.
I’m a big believer in setting time
limits on your social media time in
order to maximize your use. There
are groups like #ntchat, #edchat,
and #sschat that have sprung up
around various topics on Twitter.
They meet at regular times and you
can plan your time around those