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Interview with a Tech-Savvy Principal

Interview for ITCI Specialist Course!

Jackie Maughan

on 17 July 2013

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Transcript of Interview with a Tech-Savvy Principal

Interview with a Tech-Savvy Principal
Introducing Deb Russell
Deb has a grasp on a variety of tools...kinda like this guy! But, she is more encouraging!
Changes and Growth
Describe the position in detail. What are some changes you have noticed since you have been in this position?
At the time, as an ICT consultant, I tested images for the OSAPAC software, wrote the updates for ICT, did workshops in families of schools on the OSAPAC titles and the report cards, implemented eTeacher software and then implemented eTeacher web based – which meant getting an eteacher lead in every school and providing workshops, helpline and tutorials. Provided tutorials on most of the OSAPAC titles, maintained the boards website for IT, supported schools to develop websites both admin and teacher. Crazy busy job as I also went to staff meetings for inservices and to council meetings. My responsibilities were board wide. Also hired a team (CERTs) to provide inservices and run a report card helpline. Managed the CERT team for the years I was consulting.
I experienced a lot of change in the types of technological tools being used. It has gone from desktops to laptops to tablets and Smartphones.
I also noticed an increase in the use of ICT.
Reward, Challenges and Realities
Discuss the rewards of the role:
We were at the leading edge of Professional Development. In my time, Blended learning, eLearning and introduction of Smart Boards were an important part of our professional development.

Discuss the challenges of the role:
There was a lack of support and changes and access. Nothing changes faster than technology, by the time the images are rolled out – they’re out of date. (MS Office, behind, software behind etc.)

The Road Travelled...
How has your experience as a consultant helped you/impacted your current role as principal?

It has definitely impacted my , I’ve seen how it engages learners, I think I have some respect from staff for having the "techy knowledge" and it’s great to support SEA students.

What other changes did it result in your career and or life?

I became a math consultant after this which of course I was all over Geometer’s Sketchpad, Gizmos and math related software, it gave me more confidence in the math role although they still left me with part of IT.

I had a site long before I became a consultant – it was a science and math site and loved dabbling in hard coded web sites (my how that’s changed.) From my math and science site I was contacted by the New York Times to be their Math blogger (It’s now been sold to Ask, but I’m still blogging for them at http://math.about.com I’ve also written for Scholastic as a result of my online presence.

Deb's Final Thoughts!
What does an ICT consultant do?What are the qualifications for this role?
At the time, the ICT consultant tested OSAPAC software, implemented eTeacher software, ran workshop, helplines and tutorials. To be qualified for this position, I had to have completed 2 specialists and 1 IT.
Was there any special training?
No, just the qualifications to qualify for the position.
Who were you responsible to and who did you work with?
I was responsible to the Curriculum Principal and I worked with the secondary ICT consultant. I was also responsible for hiring and managing a team of 10 CERTS.

Deb has done many amazing things! Below is an overview of the many positions she has held!
ICT Consultant for 4 years
MISA Leader for 3 years (Managing Info. for Student Achievement
Blended ICT
Math consultant
Short gig with the Ministry - rolling out Expert Panel Reports and Effective Guides for 9 School Boards (all containing an element of ICT)
1997 - Started Math and Science Website
2000 - writing about Education with "About"
2002 - Asked to begin a math site (continues to do so)
Has done writing for Scholastic
Her Bio for Scholastic:
Deb Russell is a 25-year veteran of education and is passionate about teaching math. Throughout her career she has taught elementary, middle and high school students. Deb has provided numerous workshops to teachers and parents to support and enhance math achievement. Deb has also taught additional qualification courses to teachers. She is currently a principal of a K-8 school, as well as a freelance writer.
Summarize the political realities of the role.
Equity of access, policies and Bureaucratic Red Tape. One big issue at the time – labs were NOT allowed in schools. The supt made me visit schools to ensure labs were dismantled. (Forest Hill was one of 9 schools I had to deal with, with supt. backing.) Teachers not having computers yet expected to teach technology was a huge issue. First thing any employee gets when they are hired is a computer – UNLESS you’re a teacher. That was a long heated issue – finally getting resolved. The other issue is that the Ministry doesn’t update their ICT policies – ridiculous.
How has the position changed?
The position has grown with the technology, it’s a position you could do even though it’s a K-8 Job. It has a much larger online component now and the IPAD / Ipod/tablets and newer technologies make it harder to support – just desktops was all I had.
My Reflections:
After speaking with Deb, in greater detail (as we have had many conversations in the past) , I feel like the way that technology is going, it is a position I could help. Not only am I intrigued by new technology but I am dedicated to learning and growing along the way. I think my teaching experiences help me to understand how technology could be useful in class, and how best to use it, regardless of your expertise!

Although standing in-front of a room of children is where I am most comfortable, I am shy and become a bit more anxious in front of my colleagues. I would have to work on my presentation skills in front of other adults and ensure I was prepared for each presentation. Also, I am not as familiar with the Ministry components and would have to study up on these polices, and expectations, if I were to take the position. Deb assures me that the online component is greater now, so I would likely feel more comfortable.
Changes I Would Like to See
As I value Deb's opinions and her work thus far, I would like to see the policies get updated. Also, I would like to see there be more ICT support, especially when blended learning is implemented province-wide. In prior discussions in this course, some teachers (I can't recall what school boards) had an ICT teacher per school. Like a French teacher, that would be ideal, especially as the technology continues to be implemented on a regular basis.
As it will be likely to be years before that happens (if ever) it would be ideal to work with our "Family of Schools" to have high school students come in and work with classes to explore the software, in relation to the curriculum. For example, high school students could have a placement (maybe a couple of afternoons a week) where they come in and work with small group of students to help them create a movie, such as "A Day in the Life of a Pioneer" and teach them how to use the programs available to put together a presentation for their class. This could be used as mandatory volunteer hours or a type of ICT Co-op Placement for the high school student and as Media marks for the elementary students, giving them hands on experience using the type of software that will be available for use in the older grades.

Would I Take This Position, if it was offered to me?
If asked to run a workshop on creating a blog (for example) I would happily do it (even though I am shy). Although, on a full-time basis, I would have to give it some consideration, as I can't imagine myself anywhere but in the classroom. Some things I would consider? How many positions are there? What aspects would I be teaching? How much would I be away from home (Deb spent 2 years living in- and out- of hotel rooms)? If I was in only a few schools, working with the kids, I would be more likely to accept the position. Also, I would want to ensure their was P.D. available for that which I was less comfortable with, to give me the time to explore and learn before teaching someone else. The more I learn, the more I am interested in exploring more opportunities. Especially with the support and guidance of my "Tech-Savvy Principal"!
Just to end on a fun note! :)
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