The Importance of the Technology Integration Specialist

We go by many names. Technology Integration Specialist. Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. Instructional Technology Coach. Education Specialist- Instructional Technology. (Those last 4 are ones I’ve seen in Virginia job postings alone!) Whatever name one is familiar with, our main job description is such:

“Assist teachers and students in integrating technology into the curriculum, combining both in the learning experience.”

The following are things that I have time in my time as a TIS:

– Found technology resources upon teacher request
– Helped plan lessons involving various pieces of technology
– Cotaught lessons with teachers; they focused on the content, I on the technology
– Developed lesson plans for online audiences
– Designed and presented professional development sessions in the district
– Designed and presented at the WV statewide technology conference
– Attended professional development sessions to broaden my knowledge
– Performed basic checks and fixes on technology equipment
– Assisted in work order submissions
– Collected inventory forms
– Designed and implemented a 1:1 laptop plan for middle school
– Prepared computer labs for statewide testing
– Technology Coordinator for statewide testing at my schools
– Setup/closed labs at the beginning and end of the year
– Applied for and received 2 grants
– Assisted teachers with learning new tools at the teacher’s request
– Taught some elementary computer classes
– Ran computer programming clubs

Those are just some of the things I have encountered. I’m sure there are more that I’m missing and that should be on the list, but are not. It’s a pretty big list that is always ever growing. I have always seen it as my job to promote technology, and make it easier for teachers to use the technology that is available to them.

What some people forget is that not every teacher is a digital native, or feels comfortable trying something completely new just out of the blue. This is not to say that those teachers simply want to avoid technology. No, they actually do want to try the technology and teach their students in new ways, but the amount of stuff available to them is overwhelming. Where do they begin? What’s out there? How do they know what works and doesn’t? Is there an app for that?

These questions and more can lead to more stress and anxiety than they would care to deal with on top of everything else. Add one more thing onto the neverending pile of other teacher duties? No way! Now enter the TIS (or whatever name you’d choose to call us instead). Part of our job is to meet with those teachers and help them to see what is truly out there.

There is one teacher that I have really gotten to know and work with in my time as a TIS. She’s my third mom now. When I first became a TIS, I was told to leave her to her own thing. I thought it might have been because she just didn’t want to use the technology. In fact, it was simply because she was tired of being talked to like she was a child. During the past two years, she has been willing to try new pieces of technology in her classroom, and to coteach with me on many occasions. It has been wonderful to see her growth.

West Virginia is having budget issues currently. On top of that, many districts are doing the yearly RIF and transfer dance. Normally, this isn’t so bad. RIFs are often told that they should have another job in the district before the start of the new school year. This year… not so much. What is taking place in my county is taking place around the state as well. Jobs are on the chopping block, and TIS folks are one of the first to go, as we are not a federally funded position. In my county, this meant cutting 3 of us that worked in the schools. Actually, we were the only TIS folks in the schools, as the head TIS worked at the central office. I have heard from some of my other technology friends in the state that they also had their positions cut. As far as I know, all were given transfers back into a classroom position.

What will happen though if the TIS is taken away from the schools?

 

That’s the question I keep getting asked by my fellow colleagues. Who will help us do __________? Who will help us do that __________? What happens when we need __________ done? I don’t think the answers are very pretty. As a school TIS, I am part of that front line defense. I’m able to fix the easy issues, look into resources, teach new technology, and more. I keep work requests from being inputted on easily fixed issues. I keep teachers from becoming frustrated when something seems broken or won’t work the way it should. Take that away, and now teachers are left do take on all that I do.

Is it fair? No. I’ve not forgotten my time in the classroom, and all of the responsibilities I was given as a teacher. Some days, it was very overwhelming. Even though I loved technology, I didn’t always have time to use it in the ways that I truly wanted to. Sometimes it wasn’t even on my mind. If someone had offered to help me plan things out or coteach with me, it might have been a different story. As it was, I integrated where I could, one piece at a time.

I really do hate to see where things will head next year in the county with technology. I fear that it won’t be used as often, or that teachers will become so frustrated with it that they won’t utilize it. I don’t want to know how the 1:1 program will end up going. I hate having to end my computer programming clubs. I hope that there will be teachers who can step up and assist others. We are an important part of a school staff and with all of us gone…what happens next?

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