Name: Terisa J. ODowd
Title: Technology Director
District: Howe Independent School District, TX
What are your big-picture tech goals?
Our goal for technology is to empower teachers and students to take full advantage of the 21st-century tools that are available to them. We want teachers using our web portal as more than an extension of their classrooms. Everything that happens in class should have a presence on the teacher’s web site. When we reach this goal, students, parents, administrators and community members will be able to see first-hand the incredible learning opportunities our teachers provide.
For the last five years, we have been using the SchoolWires web portal. This tool provides teachers with a quick and easy way to publish all types of content from assignments, databases, calendars, text, documents, photos, video, podcast, links, slide shows, maps, directions and more. With the availability of our web portal 24/7, it becomes even more important for teachers to provide up-to-date instructional content on their web sites to help students and parents stay engaged in the classroom learning experience.
Our society functions differently than it did 30 years ago. We access information using smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. When I went to school, I had to have my parents drive me to the public library or have someone pick up my assignments from school when I was absent. That is not necessary today and, in fact, with two parents working in the average household, it is not feasible. With all the advances in cloud computing and the explosion of tablets, it is more important than ever for educators to have a valued presence on the web.
What changes are you taking to achieve them?
We are looking for opportunities for funding tools that will make it easier for teachers to share lessons with students. In particular we want to make it easy for the teacher to record video lessons and share those through their web sites. There are lots of free or open source tools for video sharing, but most are too technical and time consuming for the average teacher to use. We want teachers to be able to share their lessons online using video tools such as Show and Share. These tools are intuitive and make publishing and accessing lessons quick and effortless. They provide secure quality content, searching features, and make learning available any place, at any time. Since Show and Share is not a free tool we have to be creative and find funding opportunities that will allow us to purchase the hardware and software necessary to deliver these features to our teachers and students.
What are the biggest challenges in your day-to-day life and how do you manage them?
Staying focused on the “big picture’ is the biggest daily challenge. There are a great many distractions in educational technology such as technical issues, new technologies, curriculum changes, administrator concerns, staff and student training, federal and state guidelines, Internet safety and more. I find planning to be the best way to manage them all. We try to plan with a variety of people. I plan with my staff weekly, administrators monthly, our site-based team bi-annually. My staff and I attend conferences and monthly meetings with a tri-county technology consortium. My staff and I also attend regular roundtable meetings at our educational service center which is an arm of the Texas Education Agency. This allows us to stay up-to-date with county, regional, state and national technology innovations, challenges and information.
How do you get buy in on ed tech from the school community?
Our technology department provides most of our own staff development, which allows us quality control over the workshops offered to our staff. We also provide a variety of staff development opportunities for teachers and staff members. We host after-school training, summer workshops, Tech Tuesdays (teachers can attend training during their conference periods), and subscription online staff development through Atomic Learning (24/7 access from any Internet connection).
In addition to these offerings, our district requires teachers and staff to attend 12 hours of technology-integration training each school year. Meeting monthly with our campus and district administrators to plan and monitor educational technology goals helps my department achieve the “buy in” necessary to meet our educational technology goals. We also have a site-based committee that consists of campus administrators, teachers, students and parents that meets twice each year to plan and monitor our district’s technology plan.
What technology or tech-ed happening or issue currently has you really excited?
I seem to stay excited about education technology. As a former classroom teacher, I am passionate about teaching and learning and believe educational technology keeps moving the classroom forward, helping teachers reach more students in a variety of ways; it is through this catalyst that teachers can enhance their curriculum to reach students with a higher quality of learning.
The most recent tech-ed gadget that seems to have staying power and has sparked my interest is the iPad. They are so easy to use. Teachers and students love them. It is easier to get buy-in from teachers when they really want a tool. The number of applications the iPad offers with classroom potential is astounding. iPads are affordable and durable. They offer teachers and students access to the 21st-century tools available on the web as well as some new features like Facetime that has enormous potential for distance learning. It is such an exciting time to be an educator and I am especially fortunate to be a part of school district that values teaching and learning so highly.