I have been in education for the past 20+ years and until the last year, really didn’t understand how important building a Personal Learning Network was. Six years ago, I made the transition from Higher Education to the awesome and interesting world of K-12. As an IT Professional, my focus was completely different. I have always loved technology, problem solving, and all things “change.”
My love for facilitating and training began when I worked as a Technical Support Analyst in Research and Development at a local DuPont plant. Part of my responsibility was to design and deliver educational materials for corporate technology training activities. This inspired me to learn more about the details of what made technology work, and I began a journey to explore all facets of Information Technology management. I realized there was no better environment to learn more about IT Management than in education. Educators are always experimenting, learning new things, and discovering what does and does not work within their area of specialty. I knew I was personally responsible for challenging my thoughts, skills, and abilities and that I must commit to being a life-long learner.
I had the privilege of working at Lamar University, where I held a number of positions including Director of Network Services and IT Strategic Planning, and Assistant Vice President of Infrastructure and Security Services. I realized I would have a variety of opportunities to learn about cutting edge technologies and how they contributed to the success of students, faculty, and staff. I received my Master of Science Degree in Computer Information Systems and learned that I loved project management and planning activities. While at Lamar, I was fortunate enough to serve on a number of Technology committees at the local, University, and Texas State University system level. I learned so much from all of the experts with whom I served. I was inspired to incorporate as many of the “leading-edge” technologies as possible to provide students with relevant, reliable, and available resources to improve their educational experiences.
Why is this important? It was through the planning that I learned what was required to successfully deliver technology resources and provide the services needed to support both the educational and operational needs in an educational environment. There are so many details that must be addressed to make a technology environment seamless to the teachers and students. There are usually many people working behind the scenes to make the delicate balance of classroom success and the requirements of delivering technology work together for the benefit of everyone.
When I made the switch to K-12 six years ago, I spent the first few years learning the new policies, legal requirements, and jargon of a K-12 public school. Being a Technology Director at LCM is challenging, rewarding, and a daily discovery of just how talented our employees are. I was accustomed to “drinking water through a fire hose” and was as comfortable with that as possible. It was change, it was challenging, it was new, it was shiny….and actually fun. I was so focused on the delivery and making the experience good for students, faculty, and staff that I needed to rediscover the reason I chose this profession. I came to the realization that I desperately needed a Personal Learning Network of K-12 educators to add to my current PLN. I used a variety of tools to reach out to others and build my PLN, but it wasn’t until July of 2014 when I attended the ISTE conference in San Antonio that I realized the power of my PLN.
My favorite part of the conference was the informal sessions where students were presenters and experts shared their knowledge in a small personal environment. I had so many questions, and the presenters were so patient and willing to share what had worked well and not so well for them. I appreciated the honesty. There is really no opportunity for failure in Information Technology Management, a failure means someone is without a service that is necessary for student success.
I looked at Technology through different eyes, with a different focus. I questioned my peers, experts in my PLN, even my grandchildren. I got Minecraft advice from a nine and ten year old, learned about apps from a two year old, and had a contest posting vacation photos to Instagram. Seeing transformation in family was inspiring, knowing that it was happening in our classrooms made it more meaningful.
The new focus quickly led me back to my PLN. My favorite way to connect with my PLN is through Twitter Chats. Although fast-paced, the chats provide a great opportunity for information sharing and building PLNs, as well as best practices for delivering technology. Questions can be answered quickly, and someone always knows the answer to the question, or is connected to someone who does. Our awesome LCM Administrators started the year with an admin chat to facilitate building PLN’s and prepare for upcoming Professional Development activities. We now have a number of LCM faculty and staff participating in the Region 5 chat, #reg5chat, and communication and collaboration activities are increasing in our classrooms. This has been an unforgettable year. I can’t wait to see the continual progress in our District and throughout our region.
My Favorite Tech Tools:
Hoot Suite, TweetCaster, Instagram, Pinterest, ScoopIt, Office 365, and Evernote.
On Twitter: @kallen214
By Email: email@example.com
On Pinterest: pinterest.com/kallen214
Upcoming projects: Office 365 implementation and training, planning for our District bond activities, ongoing PD for district faculty and staff, and the continual quest for learning in order to share with others.