Moving a District Towards More Verbs

New journeys are both exciting and full of detours, breakdowns, and bumps in the road!

Bethel, MaineBethel is wonderful small town nestled in a beautiful section of Western Maine. The White Mountains raise all around us here. There is a beautiful downtown with a well stocked, but relatively small, grocery, and an old fashioned hardware store across the street (Ironically named Brooks Brothers!). And there are plenty of really good restaurants – mostly because the town sits between two popular ski resorts. But it will take 30-40 minutes in any of four directions to find a big box store.

This wonderful little town is at the center of Maine School Administrative District #44.SAD 44 has three schools (well, sort of four): Crescent Park Elementary School (where about 3/4 of the K-5 students attend), Woodstock Elementary School (where the other 1/4th are), and Telstar Middle/High (although it’s one building, they divide it so 6-8 is fairly separate from 9-12). There are only about 775 students district-wide (about 50 students per grade level).

And I have just become their Tech Director.

The district may be small, and they may be rural, but they are fairly innovative. They have a Freshman Academy that all 9th graders participate in. They hold classes most of the day at a 4H Camp and subject learning targets are integrated into hands-on, environment and outdoor themed projects and units. The district also has 1to1 technology for all it’s K-12 students (iPads in K-2 and MacBooks in 3-12).

This is the perfect opportunity to work on living “more verbs” (focus more on what you want to do with the technology) and “fewer nouns” (focus less on the “stuff”, the hardware and the software)!

The district has a small tech team, made up of an elementary technician (who retired just before I came on – an early task was filling the position!), a MS/HS technician, and the Tech Director (me). Historically, the Tech Director was also a technician, working with the others, keeping hardware and software functioning (all “nouns” work).

David Murphy, the Superintendent responsible for much of the innovation in the district, and I have been wanting to work together for years, and the former Tech Director had been wanting to retire for a long time! So the superintendent brought me in with the intention of the Tech Director becoming learning and teaching focused (more verbs!!), letting the two technicians take over all the hardware and software pieces (all the nouns).

That sounds wonderful! And an easy transition to accomplish! (And frankly, these teachers, who have had teacher and student devices for years, are enormously welcoming and excited to have someone to work with them on better leveraging their technology for learning!) 

But transitions like these are full of challenges and bumps and fails and detours, with needing to hire a new elementary technician, and “But the previous Tech Director did this!” and tech challenges that come up requiring skills none of the three of us on the district tech team have much experience with, and folks not knowing who to contact about what, and some critical info (including accounts and passwords) falling between the cracks as one Tech Director retires and the new one comes in, and everyone getting used to this new guy (me) who shifts nearly every conversation to the topic of learning experiences… And… And…

So it feels good to be blogging again and I plan on chronicling pieces of our journey and transition toward making tech systems seamless and invisible because they function well and leveraging technology to create better learning experiences for more students. Toward more verbs and fewer nouns!!