I’m so glad you asked :) This year in addition to teaching 7th and 8th grade history and an Upper School US History class, I will be the ITF for the middle school history department. ITFs (that stands for Instructional Technology Facilitators) are part of the newly formed ITT (Instructional Technology Team) at our school. It’s a new way of organizing instructional technology support. On one level it felt a little awkward to be asked to “re-introduce” myself to colleagues I see virtually every day, but I suspect that my role will be similar to what I’ve done without a title in the past- helping people think about ways to use technology to enhance student learning and supporting them in that use. (I think it’s important to pause here to note that anything I do know about technology is the result of hundreds of conversations- with our former Instructional Technology Director and colleagues and with educators on Twitter and at conferences. I’m deeply grateful for the ways they’ve helped me learn.)
At the beginning of my time during the department meeting today, I emailed department members a Microsoft OneNote page with pictures of some wacky looking 19th century inventions and asked them to guess the purpose of these pieces of technology from a prior century. (You can take a similar quiz on this BBC site.) We talked about how some of the inventions were precursors to modern day technology. The telautograph, for example, might be considered an early form of a fax machine. Some of the inventions, such as the hat tipper, were examples of innovation that we no longer use today.
After that, department members filled out the following form. (Click on the image to view the full form.) It asked them to identify one way they’d incorporated digital tech that was working well and why they thought this was the case, one thing they’d thought about using digital tech for but hadn’t and what was hindering them, and how they thought an ITF might support their work in the classroom.
I projected their responses, and we briefly talked about them. One department member noted that she’d used Dipity successfully in Language Arts and looked forward to trying it out in World Cultures. One of the other faculty members asked what Dipity was, so we took a brief detour to look at one of the timelines an Upper School student in my class made last year. Other teachers mentioned creation and curation of video and the use of wikis for collaborative student work.
When it came to things they’d like to use digital tech to help benefit student learning, members listed ideas from increased opportunities for presentation to spaces for student reflection. In some cases, these ideas had been hindered by a lack of know-how and in other cases, equipment needs (lack of mini-projectors) had kept him from trying out the idea. They suggested that an ITF could be useful to them by helping them imagine places where technology might be used to enhanced student learning in ways they hadn’t previously imagined and consulting regarding current projects and ideas.
At the end of what I had planned, one of the department members said, “So, what was that site we just used?” which led to a quick intro to Google Forms. We talked about the possibility of using them for student feedback on units and as exit slips. What I loved about that conversation is that it emerged organically (although I’ll admit I was secretly hoping that someone would be curious enough to ask ;)), rather than being “I will now offer a workshop on Google Forms.”
At the end of my portion of the meeting, one of the department members said, “Thanks, Meredith. You’ve helped me already.” That seemed like a good start to the year.