Georgia tech teachers leave school to learn

How do you identify the leaders in your school system who are already integrating technology and media in their classrooms, yet want more? Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, GA created the Technology Leadership Forum (TLF) for a select group a group of skilled teachers and technology, media and curriculum specialists who want to increase their instructional and technical skills and share them back at their school settings. Now in its second year, the TLF selects 25 participants each school year who are already innovative users of technology, takes them offsite 7+ full days, and exposes them to the best thinkers and hands on demos of integrated instructional technology.

Fulton Schools has learned that initiatives that take off are driven by people who exhibit passion and performance. “We had been offering technology training to all teachers for years, but it had limited impact back at the schools,” says Kathy Politis, Director, Instructional Technology at Fulton County Schools. “Most just put the notebooks back on the shelf after professional development training, and our connection to those teachers historically ended there. The TLF is a different idea, one that identifies the technology leaders, and brings them into other leadership roles so they continue to shape our technology throughout the system.”

This year’s Forum subjects include seminars by Elizabeth Hubbell, “Using Technology with Classrooms that Work,” Tony Vlachakis’s “Taking Standards-Based Classrooms to the next level with technology,” and Jeremy Jackson, who led the group in how to use “Pixie, Frames and Blender,” Sessions often teach how to utilize available tools such as Google Docs, tracking changes in Word, using inexpensive web cams, or teaching using PBS video streaming programs available. The January program with Bernajean Porter, titled “Using technology to turn up the H.E.A.T. in your classroom,” explored Higher Order Thinking - Engaged Learning - Authentic Tasks and added-value Technology Uses. “Our presenters are tops in the field,” adds Politis, “people that our participants probably wouldn’t be able to see or hear except at national conferences.”

At the end of the varied sessions, each participant presents a culminating project, posts three original lesson plans using technology in SAMS (Fulton’s Student Assessment Management System), and collaborates in online discussions. River Trail Middle School teacher Cliff Roberts saw his project morph from last year’s tri-fold brochure to a new video streaming and voice over presentation. This year’s graduates will be welcome at next year’s sessions as mentors, to create a larger group of teachers passionate about innovative technology for classroom instruction.

“Innovative classroom teachers become the experts who are believable,” says Politis. “They are so much better at sharing the message than we are who work on the district level. “The best initiatives seem to grow rapidly when they begin at the grass root level.”