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Adventures of a School Tech Specialist

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Teachers know the last month of school is a crazy, multitasking month when standardized tests are followed by final exams, graduation, class celebrations, team celebrations, field day, and more ceremonies. Balancing all these events while maintaining some semblance of a learning environment can be an emotional rollercoaster.

We technology specialists have our own version of hectic, end-of-year multitasking. It's a mad scramble to recall all the details of different software and tools while scurrying to meet any and all requests to make the last few weeks of school enjoyable and memorable for teachers and students.

As part of a new partnership, teachermagazine.org is publishing this regular column by members of the Teacher Leaders Network, a professional community of accomplished educators dedicated to sharing ideas and expanding the influence of teachers.

In the spirit of the FOX series “24,” I’ve detailed what takes place behind the scenes during one frantic week, 168 hours, in June.

Bleep. Bleep. Bleep....

Just Like the MTV Awards!

Background: One of the administrators has a talent for fancy ceremonies.

Task: "Take pictures of all award recipients," she says. "Organize the pictures to display in order as each name is called out in the ceremony. We'll have music playing, and it will all be synchronized in Powerpoint. Oh, can we have their names displayed on the video to fade in and out? What do we have to do to get this done?"

Solution: "We" actually means "me." OK. We'll use Photostory instead of Powerpoint. Edit the pictures in Adobe Photoshop Elements. Charge the camera batteries. Organize how 100 or so kids will show up to pose sometime during the school day. Keep track and hope....

Not that Song Again!

Background: We're having an event to honor the parent volunteers. And what better way to say thank you than to have a video of their children sharing a few words about how thankful they are that the parents are involved in the school.

Task: Schedule, find, and videotape the students and edit the tape before the meeting in two days. But now they want to use the Josh Groban song "You Raise Me Up"—that moving, but overplayed song from 2005 that every other contestant on American Idol hacked to death. Since I'm filming and editing the video, I'll have to hear Josh raise me up at least a dozen times! Such is life, I suppose. Now, who has a copy of that song?

Solution: iTunes and Adobe Premiere Elements 3.

Want to try a Podcast!

Background: The incoming 6th graders are visiting the school and our Student Council Association will show off their newly produced "Welcome to Middle School Video" and give tours.

Task: This is a good time to promote podcasting to the students, so we will record their advice on "How to be Successful in Middle School" to show the new students. It's worth it—the students enjoy hearing their voices and the new students feel more at ease about the following year.

Solution: Teach council students how to use Audacity. Embed the audio in a Web page with Dreamweaver and create a downloadable version of the mp3 file.

Looking Good with a Poster

Background: The after-school specialist has an end-of-year presentation the following week.

Task: He wants a large poster showing some of the activities from the year. "Do you have pictures?" I ask. "No, of course not," he replies. What would Jack Bauer do?

Solution: Check for appropriate pictures of the after-school program and schedule students for any new pictures, create a poster with our school logo, print it all out, and make it all presentable. Tools: Photoshop Elements & Illustrator.

Multimedia Poetry Book

Background: During this week, the English teacher and I are also co-teaching a hands-on poetry lesson. This is good, because being in the classroom is a welcome break from being the media-production person, and I finally get to teach students again.

Task: Help students illustrate their poetry, record what they composed, and create a multimedia book so they can share their work.

Solution: Teach the 6th grade students how to illustrate their poetry in Fireworks, record their voices in Audacity, and create a template in Dreamweaver for their pictures and recordings. Upload project to server.

Meetings, Meetings

Background: This week I also have to attend a county meeting about a new online common-assessment initiative. On another day, we also have an early dismissal to discuss school-wide planning—specifically, how to integrate technology in lesson planning. I'll be presenting with the other committee members.

Task: Switch gears from troubleshooting software to thinking about problem solving, group activities, rubrics, the role of common assessments in instruction and school planning, and appropriate staff development. Again this break is good, because I can become involved with school-wide teaching and learning issues. Reminds me of when I use to teach, before I joined our district's version of Best Buy’s “Geek Squad.”

Solution: Get into professional meeting and presentation mode. Wear a Brooks Brothers shirt and tie. Think “Teacher Leader” and not about all those pictures I still need to take.

Projector: Does it work?

Background: Everything is prepared for the parent volunteers’ award ceremony. Time for a road trial.

Task: Do a test run on the projector to make sure everything will work as planned. No problems with the test run, unless you count Josh Groban blaring through the speakers.

Solution: Grin and bear it. I guess I can hear the song one more time since it will make the parents happy and the role of technology in schools will be validated.

That's my sample of life in June for those of us in technology. Teachers bring closure to their year by celebrating the successes and honoring the achievements of their students. Administrators prepare for students’ exodus and plan for new and returning pupils in September. With a little luck and good memory recall, technology folks work seamlessly and quietly in the background to help make it happen—and happen better. Oh, and one more thing:

I need a break

Background: I'm bushed.

Task: Plan a vacation.

Solution: Travelocity.

Bleep. Bleep. Bleep.

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