MassCUE is pleased to announce Jeromie Whalen as our Featured Educator for February 2022!
For Jeromie Whalen, the exciting part about working in technology education is that it changes so rapidly. Along with his students, he is always learning and adapting in real time. The Northampton High School Communications and Media Production teacher says technology education and digital literacy have taken a front seat as technology has become so ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Changes in the way we consume and produce media and grappling with the issues surrounding those changes inspire him to come up with new innovative solutions and continually adapt his practices.
During his eight years as a teacher at Northampton High School, Jeromie has worked to advance learning and inspire students through several innovative projects.
Back in 2015, when the computer game Minecraft was taking the world by storm, Jeromie noticed that his students were downloading the game on classroom computers. Instead of trying to quash this behavior, he looked for ways to encourage his students’ enthusiasm for the game and incorporate it into the curriculum. The result was a capstone project for one student called Minecraft Northampton. The student was able to obtain LIDAR (laser mapping) data from the town to create a 3-D interactive Minecraft version of Northampton. He then had the opportunity to present his project at an engineering conference. “This student was able to turn something he loved into a learning opportunity,” said Whalen. “Not only that, his work was taken seriously by experts in the field.”
Jeromie’s Social Entrepreneurship class offers students the opportunity to partner with Northampton Open Media and local non-profits to create digital projects that seek to address a need in the community. One project saw students partnering with the non-profit Safe Passage to create a virtual reality experience for understanding domestic violence. For this project, the students learned to use 360 cameras and other digital tools, but they also had to grapple with complicated issues and fuse it all together with sensitivity.
“When students have the opportunity to work with an organization outside of school to solve a problem and are taken seriously, that just elevates education to the next level,” said Whalen.
Community involvement and real-world experience are also key components in the weekly video news magazine that Jeromie’s students produce called The Transcript, which has won several awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Boston/New England Chapter Student Production Awards. Another project tasked students with updating the website for the town of Northampton.
As a student himself, pursuing his doctoral degree in Education at the University of Massachusetts, Jeromie worked in collaboration with his doctoral program advisor, Dr. Torrey Trust, to collect some of the first data on the shift to emergency remote teaching during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. They have published multiple articles to inform teaching, teacher professional development, and scholarship related to the topic. One of his co-authored articles, “Should teachers be trained in emergency remote teaching” has more than 220 citations since its publication in May 2020.
“At the beginning, teachers were overwhelmed. They increased their use of technology, but the extent to which it was effective varied. That’s the bad news,” Whalen said of the study. “The silver lining is that there was a lot of room for experimentation and educators now have more tools and more of a relationship with technology.”
His advice to fellow educators working with technology: start small and incorporate technology into what you are already doing, rather than trying to change everything at once. He says he always tries to follow the advice of another teacher at his school who says it’s okay to fail gloriously.
“You don’t have to know everything,” Whalen says. “It’s okay to experiment and let students know that you might not know all of the aspects of a certain tool or software. But as a teacher, you can be a facilitator and a project manager. You can help your student outline goals and tasks and manage deadlines so that they can progress.”
Jeromie Whalen is a Communications and Media Production teacher at Northampton High School, where he is also chair of the Technology Department. He holds a master’s degree in learning, media, and technology and is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in Education (mathematics, science and learning technologies program) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Northampton Open Media. Jeromie has been named a PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator. He is also a Google, Apple, and National Geographic Certified Educator.Print this post