Jen LaMaster

See what's happening in technology at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.
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Name: Jen LaMaster

Age: 42

Title: Educational Technology Coordinator, 3½ years

District:Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Tell us some of your big-picture tech goals for the year.

For 2010-11, the big picture goal was to open access to Web 2.0 tools for students and faculty. We developed a social media policy for adult/student communication (under final review for inclusion in staff handbook); lessened amount of content filtering to open the way to educational gaming, video production/streaming; piloted Microsoft Live@EDU; and increased bandwidth to the building to support all these activities.

For 2011-12, I will be focused on several new goals:
• Begin infrastructure rebuild to support BYOT program (see #3)
• Rethink assessment in light of 21st-century tools and flexibility in knowledge presentation
• Blend educational technology with professional development (let’s face it – you cannot separate ed tech from PD anymore, and the longer we think of the two as separate causes the further we go from true integration).
• Research skills in light of how to identify the research objective, access tools to meet the objective, evaluate information and effectively to communicate findings.
• Focusing our Jesuit mission within teaching and learning in the 21st century

What tech accomplishments are you most proud of?

When I took the job as educational technology coordinator in 2008, the transition from technology as peripheral department of “techies” to integrated department of “educators” was just beginning. We intentionally began making decisions based on our Jesuit Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP), which facilitates a process of context, experience and reflection. We went to the faculty and students and asked, “What is your learning objective?” By working within the classroom context, encouraging experiences with new tools, and then engaging in intentional reflection on the experience, I can now look back in awe of how far integration has come!

Integration Brag Book includes:
• Global experiences using Skype with alumna in El Salvador, sister-school in Kenya, sustainability decathlon with the Santa Clara University, CA and a distance learning exchange with Cristo Rey – Chicago.
• 100% participation of blended learning via Edline (LMS) for academic classes utilizing blogging, interactive assignments, assignment posting, screen casting, and homework hand-in accessible 24/7.
• Increased use of Web 2.0 tools to support learning, including blogging, social media, online gaming, video production/streaming and podcasting.
• Open communication between IT and faculty/students with the learning objective and school mission forefront in decision making.

Are you planning to let students BYOD (bring your own device)? If so, when?

Yes! With the rapid advancement of technology tools, the choice of tool is becoming more and more personalized. BYOT seems the best step to empower students with the skills necessary to assess their technology needs, access the best tool to meet those needs, and use the tool to achieve goals. Step One this summer is to update our wireless network to support up to 1,500 devices (currently at 450), increase incoming bandwidth to 50mb, redesign authentication to allow for the variety of devices out there (Windows, OSX, iOS, Android) and introduce a double firewall. AUP will be updated to reflect more code of conduct style language and less “thou shalt not” rules. Faculty and students will begin a “burn in” process during the 2011-12 school year, bringing in devices of their choosing. We plan to introduce a full BYOT program no earlier than 2013-14 with a minimum-productivity-level device required but allowing personal choice day-to-day as to what students wish to carry with them.

Traditional or online textbooks?

Online textbooks become more of an option when all students have an electronic device in their hands. Until then, we use traditional textbooks supplemented with online material as necessary.

Can your students/teachers use Facebook, MySpace, or other Web 2.0 tools?

I am very fortunate to work in an environment where the learning objective of the classroom directs IT policy. Our teachers and students can access the Web 2.0 tools necessary to meet learning needs: YouTube, Edmodo, Edublogs, Blogger, Microsoft Live@EDU, Google Docs, UStream, Prezi and numerous other tools. Facebook and MySpace are blocked for students, not for faculty. Some of our faculty have used Facebook for outside of school assignments, but now most use Edmodo (fabulous option for safe social networking). We have set up a school-level Microsoft Live@EDU domain which has been successfully piloted this year. By broadening the scope of Live@EDU in tandem with our existing LMS (Edline), we have many options for 24/7 learning and content delivery.

The other benefit of the small, independent school structure is that any teacher or student can request a site be opened and we can address the request within 24 hours. We usually say yes because our fantastic faculty has clear learning objectives with clearly articulated outcomes using the tool.

Professional development: face to face, online, or blended?

Professional development is best described as blended. The IPP method is key to professional development taking into consideration learning in context, time and support while experiencing new tools and reflection. My entire position is focused on being available for large- and small-group PD, but I find most of my time is spend in one-to-one conversation with faculty and students. Instead of “push-button” PD, I am able to work with faculty on specific and timely needs. I really enjoy being able to brainstorm, team-teach, and support teaching and learning! I cannot fathom my job (or the success we’ve had in integration) being miles away from the classroom in a district office.

That said, some push-button PD is always needed. Most of this is available online via Edline. I have step-by-step documents, screencasts, tutorials and links posted for on-demand PD. Faculty and students can access information 24/7. I also create a biweekly newsletter on hot topics related to ed tech which are then archived on Edline. Brebeuf also participates with other organizations such as the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA), Jesuit Virtual Learning Academy (JVLA) and the Independent Schools Association of Central States (ISACS), engaging with other schools in shared learning experiences via conferences, webinars, and content sharing.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

A pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and a romantic comedy on Netflix (preferably starring Colin Firth).

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