To say technology is a core aspect of how students learn today in the classroom is an understatement. Gone are the days of ditto sheets, chalkboards and overhead projectors. IPads, Smartboards and cell phone apps are now the common methods teachers use to educate students.
At Oakland Schools, there is a group of seven individuals who have dedicated their career to making sure these types of technologies are implemented by teachers in Oakland County districts seamlessly. Housed within the Technology Field Services department is the Technology Integration Specialist unit.
“We teach teachers how to use technology in the classroom and work with students while teaching the teachers,” explained Stefanie Cairns, one of the technology integration specialists who covers the Southfield school district.
Jeff Mozdzierz, director of Oakland Schools Technology Field Services, said Oakland Schools contracts with 12 out of the 28 Oakland County school districts to provide some level of technology assistance. Part of those contract packages is the technology integration services. Each day the seven specialists go to their designated districts and help teachers make the most efficient use of the technology they have in their classrooms.
“We take what they are buying and teach them how to use it in the classroom while working with the curriculum,” said Cairns. “We work with teachers and district leadership to help as they implement new programs and services.”
Tech integration specialists spend a good deal of time conducting research and testing out the latest technology to see how it can be used in the classroom. They will also assist them in purchasing the technology equipment that best suits their learning needs.
“A lot of that is the dialogue with the instructional leaders, principals and assistant superintendents about the why they are doing something,” added Mozdzierz. “It’s matching those students’ learning goals with the appropriate technology.”
Cairns said a technology integration specialist’s duties can include everything from providing the teacher with one-on-one lesson planning to bringing in robots and showing them how they can be demonstrated in the classroom.
When they aren’t in the classroom, the tech integration specialists are often showcasing Oakland Schools’ technological abilities and ideas out in public. Earlier this year, Cairns and Rachelle Galang, another tech integration specialist, presented at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Chicago, Illinois: “Using a framework to integrate technology in the classroom. How can I incorporate it with my curriculum?” while another colleague, Lauren Villaluz, held a networking event on digital citizenship. The group also recently presented at the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) conference, which gathers leaders at both the state and national level.
Mozdzierz said the tech integration specialists often act as the middleman between the districts and Oakland Schools, communicating each other’s needs.
“As much as we are advocates in the districts, we are also advocates at Oakland Schools for the districts,” added Cairns.