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Susan Miller

Reflection Paper
LTMS 698 Learning Technologies Internship Instructional Technology Specialist
The experiences encompassed by this internship are firmly rooted in the Harrisburg University
Competencies. The university website refers to them as critical skills for career success. They
were, and continue to be, guiding standards for me.
Teaching information literacy has been a constant in my career, when I was a librarian
as well as now, in my job as a technology coach. During my internship, I put this skill into
practice frequently, as I often needed information for my own learning or to share with others.
To respond to teachers technology needs, I needed to seek information from help desks, FAQ
pages, manuals, product and independent user forums, blogs, databases and websites. Sharing
with teachers sometimes necessitated finding step by step instructional document, sometimes
tutorial videos. I continue to teach information literacy to teachers I work with as I model the
use and evaluation of a variety of resources. For example, users new to Moodle often seek
answers to questions by emailing me or tech department members. By showing them the
Moodle.org help pages and forums, I feel that I have empowered them. Sharing information
sometimes involved linking, embedding or uploading; understanding the needs of my teachers
as well as how they will use the information allows me to make an informed decision. And
recognizing that my audiences have different learning needs and styles, I also created videos,
web pages, documents and some presentations of my own, particularly to educate teachers,
students and parents about the district BYOD initiative. Some guest appearances in high school
classrooms in our ninth grade Information Literacy class gave me the chance not only to teach
some of the basics of Google Drive to students, but to model the use and instruction of this
resource for teachers.
I believe that critical thinking often goes hand and hand with information literacy, as
both are often required to address the needs of a particular learner or a particular undertaking.
Making choices based on evaluation strategies, learner characteristics and other circumstances
requires this skill. Every time I meet with a teacher to embark on a new project, we must use
critical thinking to design the learning. My input focuses on several areas. First: technology
options; will the technology dictate the product; if yes, is that the best course of action? And
what skills or related experience do the students have for us to build on in terms of technology;
software, Web tools, file management, image manipulation, production skills, etc. What skills
need to be taught, modeled, or just mentioned? Is there a need for written or recorded
instructions? Is there support material available or do we need to make our own? Next, what
discussion and expectations will we have regarding citing sources; NoodleTools, copying and
pasting URLs, forms, etc. Critical thinking also guides my thinking as I discuss options to
teachers I work with. What are technologies are they comfortable with; what are they just
learning. Are they cognizant of the variables involved when a new technology is introduced?
Can the lesson be redesigned to better fit the integration of technology?
Similarly, critical thinking came into play as I helped develop resources for BYOD. What
types of materials suited each audience? What questions would they have? How did the
answers vary for each audience? Likewise, my professional development sessions varied from
audience to audience; in a small district it is easy to be familiar with teachers differing abilities
and comfort levels.
An approach I developed as a middle school librarian and carried over to the job of
technology integration coach is that of collaboration and teamwork. I enjoy the process of
working with a team or partner to accomplish a task; I feel that all participants often learn more
and can accomplish more when multiple tactics and perspectives are involved. And in the
coaching position, I have the best of both worlds. Partnering with teachers allows me to learn
more about the curriculum, the students, the tools they have available (as in, this teacher has
a cart full of laptops, but on any given day, only 2/3 of them are functioning! What can we do
about that?), and keeps me up on what goes on in classrooms around the district. My expertise
helps teachers see and embrace new possibilities. Sometimes, the biggest barrier is trying
something new without a safety net; it is a thrill to be able to be that safety net! And the fact
that I work with all levels sometimes allows me to share pertinent information about what and
how students are learning across grade levels, as teachers rarely have a chance to work with
department members from other buildings.
Collaborating with other instructional coaches, district tech staff and administrators has
given me a much better view of the big picture. I have a better appreciation of what it takes to
maintain district technology; manage building infrastructure; plan district-wide professional
development; adopt new programs. And it has been gratifying to be included in conversations
where I initially felt like an onlooker, but found that my knowledge and perspective was not
only welcome, it was solicited, and respected. During the course of this internship, I came to
feel much more a part of the technology team and the admin team as well as the teaching
team. I think collaboration and teamwork needs to be encouraged and nurtured throughout
the district not just by professionals, but by students. This 21
st
century skill is one of the
most desirable in the job market, and we need ensure our students become proficient.
Collaboration cannot exist without effective communication; that really is the keystone
to working with people. And if you want to be effective, you have to take responsibility not
only for what you say, but for what your audience hears. In a position like mine, where one
technology coach supports several buildings and many teachers, skills in written
communication are paramount. The first step in communicating via email, which happens
frequently throughout my day, is reading and making sure I understand the request or
situation. Many times this requires clarification as requesters are hurrying, or unsure of
terminology or both! Asking questions at this stage calls for some patience on their part, but
pays off in the end. I have learned that my replies must be concise no longer than necessary
and lists and phrases are preferred whenever possible.
Written communication encompasses much more than simple emails. During the
internship I created instructional handouts, PowerPoints and brochures, all of which
communicated in a slightly different way. My communications that are more formal, and need
to be long lasting are almost always reviewed by a colleague before being widely distributed. It
is not just a matter of cleaning up mistakes, but, the perspective of someone new to the
material helping to determine: can the directions be followed? Have any steps been omitted? Is
the message or intent understood? Does the language need to be clearer?
Finally, face-to-face communication is at times the only way to be sure all parties
involved are on the same page. It is much more effective when reassurance and understanding
need to be communicated. Face to face conversation can lead to deeper understanding of a
complex issue because questioning can be spontaneous. I feel that this type of communication,
in conjunction with collaboration, has made my meetings with the instructional coaches, tech
staff and administrators very productive. We have sat down together during the course of this
internship to develop plans for the BYOD initiative, professional development for technology
integration, and a 1:1 pilot, as well as the more minor details involved in supporting technology
in the schools. Nothing can take the place of face-to-face dialogue if you want to break through
a philosophical barrier or accomplish big things!