Creating Technology Connections at MLWGS

Sophia McCrimmon, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

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"Create.Connections" is the professional development theme of the year, designed by Coordinator of Instructional Technology at MLWGS, Jeff Hall.

“Create.Connections” is the professional development theme of the year, designed by Coordinator of Instructional Technology at MLWGS, Jeff Hall.

For MLWGS students who constantly lament slow WiFi access or feel that teachers’ lesson plans are woefully behind the times, plans to kick off a new three-year technology plan next year may provide a light in the darkness. Maggie Walker’s technology integrator team reports that they have made great strides in identifying the primary goals and objectives of the upcoming plan over the course of this school year. While such a process is not required by the state, most schools intermittently pursue a three to five year technology plan in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Education.

The WiFi needs to work, and it needs to work all the time.”

Over the 2015-16 school year, the main focus of the plan’s coordinators was to identify the primary needs of the community with regards to technology and education. In October and November, the team circulated a “needs assessment” which received 307 responses, 175 of which came from students. “From this survey we could really get a good idea of the most pressing issues for  the stakeholders in this process,” said Jeff Hall, Coordinator of Instructional Technology at MLWGS. The main prerogative for most survey respondents comes as no surprise: improving the WiFi. “Improving our network infrastructure was a huge concern among those who took the survey,” said Hall. “The WiFi needs to work, and it needs to work all the time.” From the technology needs assessment, the technology team identified seven major themes that serve as the inspiration for more concrete objectives and goals. Beyond the network infrastructure, the themes include expanding our IT staff, clarifying vision, expanding proficiency with existing hardware and software, allowing for more technological innovation in the classroom, training teachers, and expanding technology-related course offerings.

I’ve seen a very major cultural shift at this school with teachers being much more willing to try to integrate technology into lessons.”

In Hall’s view, the main focus of the upcoming plan is creating connections through instructional technology. “Our big theme for this whole year has been ‘Create. Connections,’” he said. The goal is inherently twofold. On the one hand, the plan focuses on the ability of students to “create artifacts of their learning using digital tools.” Hall added that “These artifacts can be anything from a research paper to a powerpoint to a website.” In one course this year, for example, students worked with infographics to present the pros and cons of different kinds of renewable energy. “The idea of the project was to look holistically at alternate energy sources but also the ways that infographics can be manipulated to present a certain pro or con perspective,” Hall recalled. On the other hand, the plan should encourage making connections. “With digital technology, the learning doesn’t have to stop when the bell rings, and it isn’t limited to these four walls,” said Hall. “We can leverage technology to reach out beyond.” In Art History, for example, students can post “Art History Alerts” on a class Facebook page whenever they spot connections in the real world.

With digital technology, the learning doesn’t have to stop when the bell rings, and it isn’t limited to these four walls.”

The technology integrator team, a committee made up of faculty members from each department which meets monthly, has continued to develop the technology plan with this vision in mind. Though the plan will not begin until the upcoming school year, Hall says he has already noticed a change in ethos in regards to technology in the classroom. “I’ve seen a very major cultural shift at this school with teachers being much more willing to try to integrate technology into lessons where it’s appropriate,” he said. As the team prepares to kick off the three year plan next year, Hall hopes that members of the MLWGS community can take this opportunity to offer feedback on their goals and objectives. “Once we have a wall painted with pictures hung, you won’t be able to say you wish it were two feet further back.” Hall said, “As we lay out the foundation for this process we hope that students, teachers, and parents involved will share their perspective on our vision.”

 

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