Beginning in 2013, the theme of our seven half-day trainings with staff has been “Integration.” Any coach or director that planned a half-day training was free to take this theme and apply it to their subject area however they saw fit. As the Technology Integration Director, my focus was on “Integration of Technology Into Specialty Areas,” such as Art, Music, Physical Education, and Library.
These are, in my opinion, curricular areas that are less considered when professional development is being planned throughout districts. And though our teachers were free to choose from other sessions—for example, “Connecting ‘STEM’ and Literacy,” “Integrating ELA and Science in K-2,” “Math as a Second Language,” and “Writing Curriculum for English Language Learners”—all of our specialists chose to come to the Technology sessions.
Our cohort chose to visit as many other exemplary schools as we could in order to see how they integrate technology into specialty areas. This allowed us to focus on sharing information across the district and beyond.
The importance of doing so cannot be overlooked. The simple act of talking to another person drastically increases lesson improvements and fosters new ideas. It also adds a sense of connectedness and vigor to personal teaching practice.
Being a single school, our ability to share ideas with like-positioned colleagues is somewhat limited. It is probably no less challenging for teachers in larger districts to share ideas, given schedule constraints. That said, having administrative support and encouragement of external professional development opportunities and school visits is key in improving all aspects of instruction.
We were able to set up school visits for both the Country School (Weston) and the Franklin School (Newton). At both of these sites, we worked with the Technology Directors to plan the trip and later, when we were onsite, with the Instructional Technology Specialists. Lee McCanne (Weston) and Eileen Keane (Newton) were very excited to provide this opportunity for both groups of staff. Kate Benson (Weston) and Angie Galbraith (Newton) were our tour guides.
Once on campus, the day typically consisted of classroom visits, a school tour, and a chance to sit down and discuss some of the great projects happening in the schools. At the end of the day, each teacher walked away with the contact information for his or her counterpart, the better to foster opportunities for future collaboration.
This year, we are continuing our half-day training theme. Though our cohort of teachers has rotated, we look forward to visiting the Meadowbrook School in Weston and Burlington Public Schools. Both locations are ideal for schools looking to learn more about Google Apps and/or iPad deployments and One-to-One strategies. The two Technology Directors at these schools, Jon Schmid (Weston) and Dennis Vilano (Burlington), also believe that sharing knowledge is crucial to the job of both teachers and administrators.
We’ve been lucky to have such wonderful opportunities to visit several outstanding schools the last two years. We hope that more schools and districts will join us on our path, whether they be private, charter, or public. We are privileged to live in a state that is at the forefront of educational innovation. Sharing our talents and ideas will only serve to make our state that much better, and our students that much more prepared for the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jared Perrine is the Technology Integration Director of the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School . He is the Coordinator of the school’s Adventure Club  and co-founder of RunBoston Running Tours . He is also a proud member/committee member of MassCUE  and a board member of METAA . You can follow him @wiredpilgrim .