It is not by accident that Google held the first-ever South Texas Leadership Symposium with Mission CISD, according to Superintendent Ricardo Lopez. The district has been rolling out various initiatives with an emphasis on technology, including the Hour of Code and 1:1 device deployment.
Google took notice of the implementation and worked with MCISD to host a Google for Education Symposium March 26, and more than 25 school districts across South Texas were present to learn what it means to “Go Google.”
Last year, Google representatives visited about 40 districts around the United States, informing them of how they can integrate technology into their classrooms. Mission was the fourth Texas district to host the Googleplex reps.
“We’re here to learn more about what Google Apps for education is doing with school districts around the Valley and really showing off what Mission has done so successfully with integrating curriculum and technology into their school district,” said Jamie Neuwirth, the regional program manager for Google Education.
The day-long event consisted of workshops, campus visits and breakout sessions for the attendees.
Athit Farias, the instructional technologist for Sharyland ISD, explained that she had been having doubts about some initiatives her department wants to get off the ground, but her time at the symposium reignited her fire.
In her experience, she said there are two reasons teachers are hesitant to implement technology into the classroom – the state test and the teaching style.
“As a district, Sharyland has always been No. 1. We’ve got really high scores, there’s an expectation and teachers believe it’s pen and paper, that’s the way to get those scores,” Farias explained. “I think my job as an instructional technologist is to show teachers there’s value in this.”
MCISD set up campus visits at Veterans High School, Midkiff Elementary and K. White Jr. High to show the guests, consisting of superintendents and tech departments, how a Mission classroom works.
As opposed to a teacher-centered classroom, they are student-centered, following a more Socratic method of learning. This type of learning environment can also be intimidating for instructors, according to the Sharyland instructional technologist. Kids have to run the classroom, she said.
“It’s telling teachers ‘You’re going to fail and stuff is not going to work right, but that’s OK,’” Farias said. “Until principals create that environment and tell teacher’s ‘It’s OK. I’ll dust you off and we’ll keep going forward,’ when you don’t have that administrative support, it’s hard.”
With the Google Symposium, Farias said she and SISD Technology Director David Culberson learned the best practices for expanding online learning.
Like Farias, Chris Valdez, MCISD’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, stressed the importance of teachers learning the ways of the interwebs. Students are the digital natives, she said, while the adults are digital immigrants.
“What better way engage students than with what they already use,” Valdez said. “We’re the ones that have to adapt and prepare them for jobs that don’t exist today, to be ready to solve problems that don’t exist today either. We need to transform education and their educational experience.”