MassCUE is pleased to announce Nicole Hart as our Featured Educator for March 2022!
As an Instructional Technology Specialist with a background in documentary filmmaking, Nicole Hart encourages students to share their stories – because stories help us to connect across differences. Although some would say that technology is making the world more impersonal, Hart believes her role at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School is to help students and educators make personal connections.
“Every student has a voice,” Hart says. “It’s all about giving them the tools to amplify and share their stories. When they explore topics that are near and dear to their hearts, they make those personal connections with teachers and each other.”
Although the past two years have been a tumultuous and sometimes scary time for educators and students due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Hart points out that it has also created opportunities.
“It was a really rewarding experience for me as an instructional technology specialist,” Hart says. “We had to be innovative in our use of technology so that students would feel connected. It was also exciting to experience ‘Eureka’ moments with teachers, some of whom had previously been hesitant to adopt new tech.”
Building on the momentum started during the pandemic, Hart worked with a colleague to create a collective made up of educators, students, CRLS families and administrators. They called the project reCRLS, which stands for redesigning education at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Their goal was to think about the pandemic as an opportunity to redesign the school.
“The pandemic exposed so many inequities that were there, but we didn’t realize it,” says Hart. “The goal of reCRLS is to ask how we might redesign the school in a way that is equitable and joyful, as well as adaptable and flexible in our constantly changing world.”
Hart presented on reCRLS at the February 2021 MassCUE Virtual Conference. Results from the group so far include changes to the schedule to include more planning/collaboration time for educators, creating an advisory model for students and family listening conferences. One of Hart’s colleagues is also working with a group on equity-based grading.
Equity is an important issue for Hart, who says her role gives her a unique perspective.
“People in my role talk with so many students and educators, so being aware of the equity issue is important,” says Hart. “I try to be an anti-racist practitioner and I’m on a journey like many of my white colleagues.”
Another way that Hart works to advance equity and reach diverse student populations is through project-based learning. She created a Freshman Technology Experience program and has collaborated with colleagues to design a project-based learning course for professional development, as well as an innovative space in the library called the Inquiry Lab. This space offers students the opportunity to work with their hands and teachers a place to do collaborative projects with materials like cardboard, styrofoam and beads.
“When we introduced teachers to the Inquiry Lab, we asked them to build their dream learning environment and nobody built a traditional classroom,” says Hart. “The stuff they made was so cool! It got them excited about the space. It’s incredible to see students working on projects there. They just light up. It may be one of the most joyful spaces in the school.”
When it comes to the technology she uses with students, her favorite tool is Padlet, which she says is a versatile tool that is easy enough for anyone to use, but has tons of features that can be used in the classroom or even for professional development. She used Padlet in a recent presentation for the Right Question Institute, where she collaborated with a colleague to use the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to engage ELL students.
Her advice to fellow instructional technology specialists: Get to know your colleagues and build relationships.
“You have to earn the trust of your colleagues,” Hart says. “When you have relationships with teachers, they will feel comfortable coming to you for help with technology or to collaborate. It’s so important to get to know everyone and to hear everyone’s story.”
Nicole Hart joined Cambridge Public Schools in 2011, as a media production teacher. She also worked as the district’s Media Technical Assistant before becoming Cambridge Rindge and Latin’s first Instructional Technology Specialist. She holds Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from Emerson College in Boston, where she was one of the inaugural recipients of Emerson’s Media Art full-tuition fellowship. She also holds a Postgraduate degree in Instructional/Educational Technology from Bridgewater State University. She is currently pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study at Salem State University. She also holds a filmmaking certificate from FAMU in Prague.
In addition to education, she has a background in documentary filmmaking. Her feature-length film, Losing LeBron, premiered at the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival.
She has served on the board of Women in Film & Video/New England and is an active member of Boston Scratch Educators and MassCUE.Print this post