Jenith Mishne

Name: Jenith Mishne

Age: 45

Title: Director of Education Technology

District: Newport-Mesa USD in California

What are your big-picture tech goals?

Last year, we rolled out 600 netbooks in September to one zone. Our district is broken up into four zones, so we picked one of our zones that is in a low-income area. We placed the netbooks in 5th- and 6th-grade classrooms as well as in 7th-grade science classes. We paid for these with an EEET grant. The purpose of the grant was to increase writing across the curriculum, with an additional focus on science. The students also had access to two Web-based programs, Discovery Science and My Access. The netbooks went home with the students, and we had 20 teachers at those schools. It’s been an amazing program that we’re hoping to expand.

What sort of professional development did you provide?

In January 2010, we got teachers on board by using Discovery Science and My Access—they started using these programs in computer labs. We also offered sub release time and after-school for professional development. If the teacher wanted to be involved in the program, she/he had to commit to this—and 100% of our teachers opted in.

During the summer of 2010, we put the netbooks in the teachers’ hands. I asked them to create a personal wiki where they had to put up photos, use Skype with a family member, things like that. In August, we had a weeklong tech camp that teachers were paid to attend. The camp included different types of professional development, using Web 2.0, netbook management, tips on using the software, and collaboration time was included.

We continued with 1:1 Mondays monthly, where we met for three hours. Teachers post monthly reflections on our blog. They post about how it’s been going, their successes and challenges and ideas for future PD. I also would bring in different edtech leaders to present during these sessions, and we offered a few more sub days to let the teachers collaborate and play.

Overall, it went really well. I had one teacher who started the program not at all a “techie,” but she had the right attitude. She was not afraid to have the students teach her, and eventually she got a smart phone, started using a wiki, Google Docs, and is one of our most successful teachers in the program.

What was the key to getting this buy-in from the teachers?

Most teachers know that technology will change the way they teach and the way students learn but are afraid of the unknown. I think having the netbooks in the classroom with students really helped. Teachers could see the motivational level of students grow, as well as their interest and engagement.

What are the biggest challenges in your day-to-day life and how do you manage them?

We had a fairly large department until last year; they cut the department from four to one, but the workload continued to grow. The biggest challenge I have is that we have so many Web-based programs—all of our elementary textbooks are in print and online—and they all have different user names and passwords. I am working on a wiki so that all of our online resources are available in one spot. A single-sign in would be huge for us. I would also love a way to have a dashboard or portal, one place that teachers and students could go for everything.

What current edtech trends have you jazzed?

I see BYOD as a possible movement, not worrying as much about what the technology is and just use whatever the students have. We also need to think about restructuring school because the way we’re doing it just isn’t working. I could talk more about this but I think my time is up.