Innovation with a Side of Enthusiasm? Yes, Please!
“When there’s a problem that needs to be solved, there’s room for innovation.” These are the words of this month’s Featured Educator, Joli Boucher. A K-5 technology integration specialist at West Elementary School in Plymouth, MA. Joli is described by co-workers as “a passionate educator with an infectious enthusiasm for the use of technology for learning.” We asked Joli what drives her enthusiasm for the use of technology for learning. “I truly enjoy demonstrating different tools that allow educators to work smarter and not harder, while saving them so much time. And, as a former classroom teacher, I understand the demands teachers are presented with these days and how truly valuable time is for educators and students. It’s extremely fulfilling.” She believes that her students have a great capacity to use technology. This may very well stem from the fact that Joli was taught the foundations of coding in BASIC by her father when she was 8 years old. She is confident that students of any age can learn to code. “Technology plays a huge role in how students learn these days and I want to help facilitate that learning and provide the same opportunities I wish for my children. There are many misconceptions that young children may not be developmentally ready to use technology, but most children are already doing so and we need to be prepared.”
A Focus on Student Choice
Joli is indeed enthusiastic in the use of technology for teaching and learning and is motivated to foster the same enthusiasm in both her students and other educators. “I’m excited about projects and am upbeat when talking about integrating technology,” says Joli, who radiates her positive energy to build relationships which are so important. Keys to her success include opportunities in her lessons for student voice and choice, as well as ensuring lessons are relevant to her students lives. Often, students may choose any approved tool to communicate ideas. Learning goals take precedence over tools, so Boucher’s students may create a short video, use presentation software or in some cases, use a poster board and markers. Her creativity in her teaching knows no bounds, whether her students are making musical instruments with fruit or coding to create video games. Students in the after school coding club (offered to grades 2 through 5) have explored Bloxels for designing and developing video games, Makey Makey to make instruments out of fruit, Dash & Dot for critical-thinking challenges, and Code.org for coursework. The feedback from parents has been positive. “Some of my students continued to work with Code.org at home and were able to show their projects to their parents. Their parents understand the importance of code and were pleased to see their childrens’ creations and productivity instead of just using technology for consumption,” stated Boucher.
Fostering a Culture of Innovation
Joli carries her innovative practice into her coaching of other teachers, meeting them where they are to serve their needs. She is tuned into fostering a culture of innovation and has a multifaceted approach to accomplish this. Joli believes it is most important to be approachable for teachers to ask questions and to share integration ideas. “When one of my colleagues asked about creating a digital bathroom pass using QR codes, we figured it out together,” said Boucher, who is willing to learn and figure out innovative ideas with her teachers. An example of such innovation includes a digital morning meeting wall using Google Drawings as part of the Responsive Classroom program many schools have adopted. Her weekly Tech Tuesday Newsletter and Thursday after school trainings offer tips & tricks for integration. She also encourages teachers to attend Googlepaloozas, EdCamps and other conferences in person and online. And, she has instructed a graduate level course entitled, “Math+G Suite= Empowered and Engaged Learners!”
Keeping Up with Edtech
When asked how she keeps up with the ever-evolving world of educational technology, Joli has some tips to share, starting with teachers sharing innovative practices with one another. She is also an active participant on Twitter and takes advantage of webinars by Classroom 2.0  and ISTE , as well as offerings by EdTechnology Specialists  and YouTube tutorials. Her reading library contains many Dave Burgess books, and she follows online blogs such as Alice Keeler  and ControlAltAchieve . The most notable influence for Joli’s development, however, is her Director of Technology, Julia Colby. “She offers amazing professional development opportunities for all Technology Integrations Specialists during our Department Meetings and in-service days.” says Boucher. Joli also draws inspiration from other educators by attending and presenting at conferences such as AppsEvents Summits Featuring the G Suite for Education, EdCamp, MassCUE, Mathematics and Computer Science Collaborative (MACS) seminars, and Googlepalooza. “I don’t always have something up my sleeve or all the answers, but thanks to technology there are so many resources to find solutions,” says Joli, who’s mantra is “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”
Joli Boucher is a Certified Google for Education Trainer and is a Flipgrid, Seesaw and BrainPOP Ambassador. Find her online at flippedtechcoaching.com and on Twitter @joliboucher