Don’t Stop Believing…Leading Change Through ACTION
Today I had the privilege of spending the entire day with Eric Sheninger. He encouraged us to consider who will tell our story if we don’t. What will they say?
That was an important and scary question for me to consider right now. I am gun shy as my major professor stated. My story is an amazing story and I have been blessed to meet and work with some amazing educators. This is my perspective from past experiences. I have seen kids make a very large impact in the world . I have been so blessed to identify my passions early on and to have had a creator put special opportunities in my path along with some amazing kids, teachers, and leaders.
Assisting the community of Dublin, Texas with Dr. Shaun Barnett and his wife Keri Barnett with a 1:1 K12 technology initiative in 2010, I became a leader. I am grateful to both of them for their leadership. I believe this was the 2nd 1:1 K12 initiative in the state of Texas. Serving as the district instructional technologist and grant coordinator and later under a different leader a technology coordinator, I became a connected educator. I found myself working and leading the state in, dare I say the word, Project Share (the state’s first attempt for a connected Learning Management system) with Ms. Barnett. At that time, I had no one really in the area or Texas to connect with or to assist me. We brought in Alan November and Apple to assist in training. What did I do? I joined a PhD program to connect with the top scholars of the world and began using social media to include Project Share, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. I located people to assist me in understanding how to connect others to content. I became a passionate curator, creator, researcher, publisher, and scholar and feel as if I was blessed to oversee some amazing transformations. No one really understood what I was doing, but now I believe we planted a seed for not just a rural community, but for an entire global movement.
Project Share: It didn’t work out, but the concept was right on. The ability for all students in Texas to have a digital portfolio via an LMS in which stakeholders could communicate and introduce blended learning was futuristic. I submitted a proposal and was surprised when we were selected to serve on a panel at the first SXSWedu conference. Yes, the LMS platform was flawed, Epsilen, but the IDEA of sharing was truly noble and ahead of it’s time. However, I found change slower than expected and a lack of understanding on the concept of connected learning. In fact, at the end of the experience after hours of free assistance from me to the Epsilen team, my participation in focus groups, and a public push for improved LMS features and training , I found that I had lost my ability to even post or share with a wider network within Project Share. What did I do? I turned to other tools like Canvas and continued my passion to assist in helping others see the power of open source and communication.
Student Voice: I remember introducing the concept of video creation with Samuel Parsi from Apple in a Challenge Based Learning PD. From that students began creating video and we were invited to lead change via a Ignite session in Austin in 2012 in the Digital Square. I remember taking students to TCEA 2012 in Austin in which my friends Randy Rogers, Dwight Goodwin, Mark Hooker, and Scott Floyd invited my students to participate in an Ignite session on their cause to TAKE 5: 5 Ways to Change Your Community and their efforts to QR code their 5 small museums. We used Google Maps to track our cause, which became eventually a Save Dublin campaign, #saveddp. Their efforts to save their rural town through digital curation left a huge impact. Mark invited our students to the first TED student event and we saw our first 3D printer. That led to a NASA STEAM camp program, which at that time and to my knowledge was the first STEAM camp program in Texas.
Makered and STEAM: No one in 2012 understood the maker movement. I am grateful to Whitney and Tom Kilgore who invited me to be to host some of the first #txeduchat events, all focused on STEAM and makered ideas. Those ideas assisted us last year in leading the entire world with the first studentNASA launch parties . We also hosted a Google Hangout to reflect on STEAM programs.
I was invited to Washington DC last October to lead a social media event at a NASA clean room facility. What did I do? I didn’t shut out the students and take it in just for myself. I brought the kids in, thankfully with Mr. Chris Underwood and Bea Price. They agreed to Skype with me all day and I believe that was the first time at a NASA press conference that Skype was used during public questioning. We had 5th graders asking tough questions to some of the top heliophysics experts of the world.
Even though I have had been afforded all of these opportunities, I found myself during this entire time wondering if I could continue the charge. It is hard to be a bright light within an institution and at times hard to overcome obstacles, barriers, fear, efforts to control innovative change. It is hard to remain positive. Change is difficult . Managing my time and focus had become difficult along with maintaining a belief that I could be positive and actually continue in the public education sector.
This spring I had many opportunities to move to the private sector. I have had some leaders tell me “Your too bright to be in public education.” “Jennifer, you need to be at a university.” “There is no future in public education, everything is moving to charter and online options because the system is broken.”
I say to these naysayers, I BELIEVE in everyone’s right to an equal opportunity and the spirit of public education. I BELIEVE in YOU. I BELIEVE in our CHILDREN. I AM GRATEFUL and WE WILL SUCCEED.