The Direct Network

A Digital Dialogue with Carrie Watkins

Posted by Carrie Watkins on Sep 15, 2014 11:00:00 PM
Topics: digital content, K-12

Is your school thinking about going digital or even just expanding an existing program? Carrie Watkins, Senior Digital Consultant for MBS Direct's Content Solutions Group, answered a few questions to help point you in the right direction.

Do you have any advice for a school that is techno-wary?

When I talk with a school that doesn’t feel technology has a place in the classroom, I like to have everyone think about their phone, and what it looked like 10 years ago. A brick, right? What did it do 10 years ago? If you were lucky, you could play “Snake.” If you were an early adopter for text messaging, you probably sent a few texts. But for the most part, people used it to make calls. When the iPhone came out in 2007, and the App Store in 2008, the way we communicate changed completely. Now we don’t give a second thought to visually communicating through photos or videos. Information is at our fingertips – whether it’s directions or the weather forecast or that crazy song lyric stuck in our heads. All of that happened in less time than it takes a student to go from kindergarten to high school. What’s going to happen in the next 10 years? That’s what we have to prepare our students for – how to effectively communicate in this environment and how to add context in a world where information is just a search away. And that’s difficult to do without technology.

For schools that recognize the need, but are still unsure where to start, the first thing I would suggest is to survey your stakeholders, specifically all levels of administration and faculty. Do a student survey if you feel comfortable. Find out what people are already using, and what they want to use. If you find there is little interest in adding significant technology to your curriculum and pedagogy, then maybe just start with some professional development and a pilot or two with highly engaged faculty. But more than likely, your faculty members are already using technology. It’s just a matter of giving everyone a sense of direction from a school-wide perspective.

If they haven’t already, look at some of the established technology integration frameworks, such as SAMR or TPACK. This helps keep the integration focused on outcomes as opposed to incorporating technology for the “wow” factor. And it gives the entire school something to refer to as they plan projects or look to upgrade less engaging projects.

What if the teachers/staff/administrators know nothing about digital? What's a good place to get some information?

If the school is interested in moving to digital content, a good place to start is their own faculty. What are they already using? Do they like the textbook, but want the students to have easier access and more functionality? Would they be open to changing the course material they use? Do they barely open the textbook, but pull information from other sources? The MBS Direct Content Solutions Group can help facilitate these conversations and provide options and examples of what is available. We can also put you in touch with other schools that are using different kinds of digital content.

What resources are available to help an incipient digital program grow?

Your best resources will be success stories from teachers already using digital content. And you have a team of people here at MBS to help your faculty members be successful. From the Content Solutions Group to help answer initial questions and provide training to your account management team to make sure that content is adopted and available for students to purchase, MBS Direct is your digital partner.

Can a school take baby steps, or should they dive in all at once?

If the school wants to go 100% digital, my advice is to go as far as they can as soon as they can, but know that not all titles are available and not all faculty will be eager to jump on board. There may be some changes in adoptions that will take some time. Like your faculty, we want to provide your students with the best learning material, so making sure faculty are happy with the content is a top priority.

If the school is content being a hybrid, providing digital as an option, baby steps are fine. Just know that as publishers update their content and platforms add functionality, students with access to digital options may have more resources than ones with just the print textbook.

Do you think becoming active on social media is important for teachers/staff in K-12? HE?

Building a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is vital. Your PLN should absolutely include the teachers and administrators at your own school, but branching out to similar schools in different parts of the country, or other parts of the world will provide a continual stream of inspiration. From new projects and classroom management techniques to trends that can be adapted for your school, getting perspectives from other institutions will only make your school better.

If so, which platform is a good place to start?

The education industry has all but taken over Pinterest and Twitter. There are so many great resources on Pinterest from teachers, from open educational resources and syllabi to fun ways to arrange the classroom for student-centric learning.

Twitter is a great tool for building your PLN. Not only are teachers from around the world sharing their ideas and the ideas of others, but it is also a great way to connect with those teachers. So whether you just want to follow a few hashtags and possibly sit in during a Twitter chat for Science teachers, or to follow and connect with other teachers directly, Twitter allows you to decide how engaged you want to be. If you are new to Twitter and would like a little help with using the tool, check out TweechMe/ @TweechMeApp).

About Carrie Watkins

Carrie is a former digital consultant for MBS Direct, who specialized in traveling around the country to learn about new products and services MBS Direct can provide to partner schools and bringing those ideas back into the office to work on with the digital solutions team.

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