EdTech Hero: Barbara Soots paves the way for OER adoption in Washington
October 20, 2017
Soots “listens, advises and gently nudges” districts to understand and embrace open educational resources.
Seth Hamilton of Metropolitan School District started the Tech2Teach program for teachers who opt to learn more about digital tools in the classroom.
Corinne Lestch is a staff reporter covering education for EdScoop and its affiliate public sector technology news websites, FedScoop and StateScoop...
At one time, administrators at Metropolitan School District of Washington Township, in Indianapolis, tried to force teachers to learn about technology and how to use it in the classroom.
That didn’t work.
Now, the district has rolled out a program called Tech2Teach in which teachers can choose whether to learn how to incorporate technology in their classrooms more deeply — and it’s a big hit, said Seth Hamilton, technology integration coordinator for the district.
“In this program, you get those teachers who really want it,” Hamilton said in an interview with EdScoop. “And those who are hesitant, they get to see their peers doing it and they realize it’s just a change in thinking, it’s not an additional piece to add on top of everything else.”
For his work and dedication, Hamilton is being recognized as a NextGen Leader by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and EdScoop in a national program to recognize rising leaders in K-12 education technology. She will be recognized along with her fellow finalists at the annual CoSN conference this month in Chicago.
Hamilton came to the district in 2012 as a technology integration specialist, and before that he was an elementary school teacher.
He launched the Tech2Teach program about two years ago, and it started with just six teachers. Today, 90 teachers have completed the program, and Hamilton and his team are gearing up to train 120 more instructors to become whizzes at blended learning.
“Essentially what they’re learning is the new modality of blended learning, changing their thinking of how they educate their students,” he said.
The district's teachers get an allotment of iPads for kindergarten and first grade, and Chromebooks for all other grades. They participate in an online course where they learn the foundations of blended learning, how to integrate it into their classrooms, and how they can form classroom management policies around the learning style. Then they work with program advisers to plan curriculum and lesson plans.
After the coaching process, “we do an evaluation just to make sure they’re on the right track,” Hamilton said. “That they’re implementing blended learning and not using technology for the sake of technology.”
After the program adviser has given the green light, then teachers can have access to the digital tools rather than getting stuck with the technology without knowing how to use it.
Hamilton said there were challenges to this method, but that ultimately teachers are more comfortable using the devices.
“We have teachers that we have been holding back by not providing one-to-one devices, so they move quickly,” he said. “But some take their time getting their feet wet.”
The professional development program takes about a year to complete, Hamilton said. After that, he hopes to build an “army” of teachers who are fluent in technology so they can help others. Currently Hamilton has a counterpart, and the two of them work with the curriculum adviser and technology adviser. But only a select few, including Hamilton, provide this specialized training to teachers – and he wants to keep going.
“I like the idea of expanding that PD model and getting more people involved,” he said. “Right now we just need more bodies to support it. We’re arriving at the point where we’re getting more people in and we want to support them.”