“Thank you for your commendable efforts and your dedication to public education.
~Monte Moses, Superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools, 2000.
John’s “quiet perseverance is respected and students and teachers seek him out because he is a good listener, mentor and problem solver.”
~ Ian Lafarge, Pupil Achievement Specialist/GT Coordinator, 2016.
John “is developing students to globally compete in a 21st century world in which a technology skill set is critical for effective communication and collaboration.”
~ Andrea Hess, Assistant Principal, 2016.
That Thing We Do
Becoming a middle school teacher is not a decision to be taken lightly. Some people simply are not cut out to do it, others get lost in it. After almost two decades in a middle school classroom, I must be one of the latter. For most of that time, I have been in a middle school computer lab teaching 11-14 year old students how to use computers effectively.
A typical day in our computer labs is anything but typical. During the day we will have as many as 250 students in our seats engaging in a variety of activities ranging from learning how to keyboard, using Type to Learn all the way to developing a daily video production of our school announcements. The students are encouraged to learn the basic skill set for a given project and explore the nuances of different software applications, then collaborate and create the most sophisticated project they can with the tools at their disposal. The results of this are varied. Some take full control of their ideas and create elaborate and complex movies, animations or presentations, whereas others struggle to complete the most basic Word Document. The key is, when they leave the lab they take more away than they brought in.
Our teaching is not limited to the two 30 by 30 classrooms that house our 70+ computers. It often extends to the hallways, other classrooms and offices. To date, the crowning achievement has been the development of a filming studio that rivals and even exceeds that of many high schools. It is made up of a full stage in green-screen with professional grade lighting, microphones, teleprompter and vanity monitor. Each day a different student crew is responsible to power up the studio, provide a camera man, teleprompt controller, and the anchors for the daily production of the school’s news network. After filming, the crew returns to the classroom where the anchor segments, along with other news stories, filmed by other “on the scene teams” and the video is all edited together into a final broadcast. Yes, I said daily. The students produce a daily news show that shares the important happenings around the school and the district. It is overseen by the two technology teachers, which includes me, but the entire production is completed by kids, for kids.
In the fall of 2019 we will be celebrating the grand opening of our new Innovative Learning Space. I was a member of a school-wide team that collaborated in the design of the new space. It will include two new makerspaces, several areas for small gatherings, an elevated stage area with a new sound system for medium sized group presentations, small group meeting rooms, lots of new collaboration space with new lighting and seating. Plus many more features and tools. I can’t wait to see what our students and teachers are able to create in such a valuable learning space.