Thursday, May 1, 2014

Meet Melinda Sears

By Dr. Will

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Melinda Sears is the Title 1 Instructional Technology Coordinator for Tuscaloosa City Schools. She has always married instruction and technology since entering the classroom in 2009. She taught French between two high schools in the system before becoming a technology coordinator. Currently, Melinda strategically coaches teachers and administrators with two high schools and an elementary school. She also leads district-wide professional development for many schools as well as professional learning groups for librarians and foreign language teachers. Along with a team of four other educators, she was a co-founder for the first Edcamp in Mississippi, Edcamp Jackson, in March 2014. Melinda has presented at many state conferences including the Alabama Association of Foreign Language Teachers conference and the Alabama Educational Technology Conference.

Will: How do you see the education technology landscape going?  

Melinda: I see teachers becoming more equipped with instructional technology from a preservice program as well as within schools. It is no longer an option to teach without technology. Schools must incorporate technology into the very fabric of learning.

Will: What company do you see as at the forefront of  innovation, and why?

Melinda: Companies that are receptive to teacher feedback and willing to make their product better for the use of learning are more likely to adapt to the ever-changing instructional technology arena. Companies like ClassDojo and Google Apps for Education are at the forefront of innovation. These companies want their users to succeed in using the product.

Will: here’s a lot of buzz around flipping the classroom, blended learning, and going 1:1, what do you see as the greatest challenge in edtech right now?

Melinda: I think the greatest challenge to edtech is equal access to all. Some districts are implementing a BYOD program and filling in the gaps of student devices. Some districts are implementing a 1:1 program so that all students have access to the same device. Districts must decide how they would like to equip all students as well as train and support teachers and students in the use of devices.

Will: Which people in the field inspire you the most, and what have you taken from any of them that you have applied in your own practice?

Melinda: I have a large PLN to thank for much of what I learn, especially through Twitter. Some of the people who inspire me are Simon Miller (@LeadedTech), Jessica Johnston (@edtechchic) and Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey). There are many others that I turn to for help on a weekly basis, especially as our system implements Google Apps for Education. All of the educators who inspire me have a sense of humility, that desire to be life-long learners, to search for answers throughout the journey.

Will: What are people missing in the device game? That is, when folks put themselves in “Apple Camps” or Android Camps” or “Windows Camps”, what is missing in the conversation, and are people being short-sighted when they align themselves to a device?

Melinda: As a member of the Droid Camp, I find it difficult to utilize quality apps from the Google Play Store. Ultimately, our aim in instructional technology is the instruction. Educators pick a learning objective and a task for students to master. Once the target is identified, then the learning can be supported by technology. When someone aligns themselves to a certain device, a careful balance of agility needs to be maintained. Although I prefer Droid to iOs, I still need to keep up to date on the latest iOs news. Not only do teachers need to cultivate adaptability to all technologies, but we need to encourage our students to do the same.

Will: What is your advice for anyone who is considering a career in education technology?

Melinda: My advice is to start in the classroom. Everything educators do should support learning - real, relevant, and learner-directed learning. My other piece of advice would be to listen to other educators in your district as well as educators in your PLN. Educational technology involves a level of coaching and helping teachers reflect on their use of technology. It is necessary to have good customer service skills and content knowledge in order to equip others with instructional technology.

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