My journey in digital learning and leading began almost ten years ago when I was still in the classroom. It was then that I jumped on the podcasting bandwagon. I used to listen to podcasts on a variety of topics but I what I really appreciated about podcasting was how it could change the learning landscape. I became so focused on the topic of podcasting that I decided to write a grant for a mobile podcasting studio for my Communication Applications course. In the grant, I mentioned how as a teacher I could use the equipment to record direct instruction and share it with students on our website. On the other hand, my students could use the equipment to create podcasts as a way to reinforce their speaking and listening skills and to give them a creative outlet for communicating. I wrote the grant for the Fort Bend Education Foundation and received it! That year we ran into technical difficulty with the software installation so we were not able to use the software. Still, we were able to use the recording devices and the open source software Audacity to create podcasts. After receiving this grant and recognizing the rapport I had with my colleagues, my principal asked me to coordinate some communication help boost teacher morale. I decided I would create a weekly podcast! It was called Monday’s Motivation. Mondays are often dreaded days by some teachers so I wanted to infuse some enthusiasm and inspiration to begin their work week! I also explored distance learning activities with debate students. We used a Polycom distance learning equipment to connect with other students to have practice Lincoln-Douglas debate rounds. I also collaborated with one of the librarians and a World History teacher to write a grant to send the librarian to Korea. Once she was in Korea, we would use the distance learning equipment to connect with her and the class she was visiting. It was an awesome learning experience for my students. Later that year, my love for podcasting and experiences with distance learning led me to apply for a position as an Instructional Technology Specialist. I closed the chapter as a classroom teacher and began a new one as an Instructional Technology Specialist.
When I joined the campus of Dulles Middle School as an Instructional Technology Specialist, I embraced the challenge of developing as a campus instructional leader. I had a lot to learn but I also had some value to add. With my grant writing experience, I helped our sixth grade English Language Arts teachers receive a grant for some document cameras that they could use to help teachers model annotating texts in close reading and drafting exemplar essays. I also used my communication strengths to present to our campus PTO for their assistance in getting more SMART Boards on our campus. My first year there they hired a new speech teacher and asked me to be her mentor. I welcomed this opportunity to help prepare a new teacher for this rewarding profession. I also began producing a campus podcast called Motivational Minute. My principal liked it so much he began sharing it with other administrators and they shared them on their campuses. After two years serving that campus, our jobs moved to to the district level. In some ways, it was sad to leave the team of students, teachers, and administrators I knew and a campus infrastructure that was familiar to me. However, this change gave me the opportunity to scale my impact and make a difference in our district and beyond.
In this role I participated in my first action research project on the topic of Podcasting in the Classroom in 2012. I partnered with a campus to facilitate professional development on podcasting. Then I partnered with two different teachers: one teacher who would create podcasts for her students and another teacher (on a different campus) who would have her students create podcasts as an integration project. This experience was eye-opening and required a lot of hard work. It was the first time I had done so much researching and writing since I was in college. It was great to go through this process.
So many opportunities came as a result of finishing this research. In our department, whenever we participate in action research, we share our findings and results with the rest of the department. My findings also led me to develop professional development on the reasons and the steps teachers could take to start podcasting in their classrooms. I shared it in my district, at the Region 4 Digital Learning conference, at the state Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) convention in Austin, at SXSWedu in Austin, and at the International Society for Technology in Education convention in San Antonio in 2013. I have included some of these artifacts as evidence of learning and leading below. What I was most excited about, though, was collecting all those experiences and research to publish an iBook- Mission “Pod”sible: A Teacher’s Guide to Podcasting. The book has been downloaded by teachers all over the globe and has been shared by leaders in the educational technology community. That one research experience opened the doors and provided me the opportunity to publish an iBook and speak to audiences beyond my classroom, campus, and district.
Last year, I had the privilege of serving as a mentor to one of our new Digital Learning Specialists. It has been a pleasure to see her grow in confidence and collaborating with her on activities. We co-presented this year at TCEA. In the future, I plan to use my research, speaking, mentoring, and publishing experience to help preservice teachers be ready to teach in today’s classrooms.
Download the iBook: Mission 'Pod'sible: A Teacher's Guide to Podcasting