I must say that the trip to Joplin, MO was very informational and inspirational. There was so much I wanted to learn. I learned so much more than I expected to and had a wonderful time with the group from the NNNC. I am very thankful to the staff, administration, and students of Joplin Public Schools for spending time with those of us from Nebraska.
A major question that I wanted answered was about the Professional Development for teachers. I cannot tell you how my question got answered and more. I really like the idea of their eTEC program. This program is arranged so that teachers get 100 hours of PD over two years. The best of all, the PD is individualized for the teacher. Joplin’s technology training is more about the integration and pedagogy of the technology rather than how the technology works. I also like the fact that their 21st Century Coaches and Instructional Coaches cover all subjects and aren’t just set to one content area, they work with the teaching rather than the content. This program isn’t just for specific teachers or a few, but ALL teachers must do this. I really think that this aspect of the program can be very beneficial to any district.
Another question or point of inquiry that I had been wondering about was the school in a mall. I must say this was probably the most interesting part of the trip for me. The walls didn’t go to the ceiling, there were racks along the ceiling to carry cables and held security cameras, some walls doubled as whiteboards and were able to open to the hall way, students could sit at tables with TVs and mirror their computers to it, and the “think tanks” that were in place. I think that this “free form” type of school would be an interesting place to study and learn. One comment that students made that has really stuck with me was: “Coming to school feels more like coming into a business setting rather than coming into school, but I miss the old building.” They are getting so used to the technology that seniors are even looking into what colleges have in the form of technology in choosing what school they may go to. They are also viewing this part of their learning as “the middle school of college.” I feel that Joplin Public Schools are preparing ALL of their students for the college and beyond. They have truly put the education of their student first. It is the kids before anything else.
I consider myself the 21st Century Coach, to borrow the title from Joplin, of ESU7. Even though my title with ESU7 is different, that is basically my job, helping teachers with integrating technology into their classrooms and schools. I am there for the pedagogy of technology, sometimes the workings of the technology, but mostly how to use the technology with students in the classroom. As I stated before, I am really impressed by the eTEC program that Joplin has for their teachers. I may try to figure out how I can do something like this within ESU7.