“To imagine what the future holds for our students and identify how we as educators can help them get there. To meaningfully leverage technology tools and innovative designs to help students become computational thinkers, while making this process fun and engaging.”
This was the main goal Dominique Dynes had set in preparation for her new role as a Technology Integration Specialist & Coordinator for the approaching 2021-2022 school year.
In 2020 educators and students had developed new, vital skills through online learning. In order to continue to refine and grow those skills, Dominique knew she needed to reinforce them and continue to invite change in classrooms at the American School Foundation of Guadalajara.
We sat down (well, virtually through Google Meet) with Dominique to find out how she planned on achieving her goal, what successes she’s experienced so far and what challenges she’s encountered in preparing students for the future.
Q: First, tell us a bit about your role at the American School Foundation of Guadalajara?
A: I am a K-12 Technology Integration Specialist & Coordinator at the American School Foundation of Guadalajara. This is an international school that has students from around the world with the majority of the students being nationals. There are two programs: The English Program and the Spanish Program.
In my role, I serve as the liaison between the technology department and the teachers, as well as the liaison between both programs.
Much of my role consists of determining what is needed when it comes to devices and apps, as well as delivering hands-on training for students ranging from 5 – 11 years old. With over 500 students, there is a wide range of tech skills that I’m supporting on a daily basis and there is a lot of basic instruction that is needed when it comes to developing these skills.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: It really depends on the grade level. Each grade level has five different classes, so for a typical day, I will prepare one lesson and teach that same lesson five times for each class.
Then, each week, I will switch grade levels and support that grade for one week.
In addition to hands-on lessons for students, I also meet with all of the teachers in each grade level to see what they’re working on in their classrooms and determine a plan to help meaningfully integrate technology into a lesson to help reinforce vital skills.
For example, in third grade, they had just been studying space and had focused on the first female astronaut. I helped incorporate a technology element by planning a fun, on theme breakout and used Jamboard for this activity.
My role includes a lot of collaboration and because of that, the teachers are very welcoming and happy to have the extra set of hands during a lesson. Through the pandemic, teachers were forced to use technology, but when transitioning back to in person, all of the teachers recognized that they are better together and working together is what is going to make this a successful year after a crazy season.
Q: What was your vision for how you were going to go about achieving your goal?
A: One of the great things about my school is that they give autonomy on curriculum and technology is open-ended. I was able to reimagine what my program should look like and select my own curriculum. Through this, my main goal was to vertically align the tech standards so when students graduate, we know they’re equipped with the vital skills that are needed. This is where I started to use the pandemic and all of the learning that occurred during this time as a way to invite change.
As exciting as it is to be given a blank slate to create what I wanted, it was very overwhelming in the beginning.
Collaboration between myself and teachers has been critical, but collaborative work in all areas is what has allowed my school to move forward in preparing learners for the future. The middle school and high school technology teachers were both new, so they were able to partner together and work on supporting other teachers in those grade levels. This allowed me to be able to mainly focus on students ages 5-11.
So, in order to be successful, collaboration is key, but as a school, we need to imagine what the future holds for our students and identify how we as educators can help them get there. To meaningfully leverage technology tools and innovative designs to help students become computational thinkers while making this process fun and engaging.
For example, pre-first students (6-7-year-olds) were able to use engineering and innovative design by programming bee bots to follow instructions and creating communities out of Legos as well as vehicles out of Magna tiles. We saw how even young kids can connect with the technology that we give them. It’s important to remember that technology isn’t just a screen, but it’s about meaningfully leveraging it to help solve problems and looking at it through that lens.
In order to reach this goal, one important thing I did at the beginning of the school year was to look at all of the new technology and practices that we adopted during online learning and figure out what was worth holding onto.
One way that we are encouraging teachers to continue to leverage technology and utilize the skills they learned, is by moving towards a blended environment where teachers are flipping their classroom and creating effective instructional videos to support this.
This provides more flexibility and choice for students, but it also allows teachers to continue to refine online teaching skills in case we transition back to online learning.
We also have some students that have opted to stay home and learn virtually, so in these cases teachers are still zooming those students in and flexing those same skills they learned during online teaching.
Ultimately, in order to reach this goal and help support teachers with varying levels of understanding and tech skills, differentiation was going to be key. I hope to create learning pathways for teachers to help them grow and refine their skills in the areas they need so they can feel confident, equipped and prepared to meaningfully utilize technology in the classroom to enhance student learning.
Q: What are some of the highlights you, your teachers and students have experienced so far?
A: In general, one of the biggest highlights has been having students back on campus and being able to collaborate with other educators in person. While it is still overwhelming in a lot of ways to have full capacity classrooms, masks, and other challenges, all of the teachers have said how much better it is to be in person. We have all been reminded of why we wanted to become teachers in the first place.
When it comes to the biggest highlights that have happened with my students and teachers meaningfully leveraging technology in the classroom, there have been so many!
With older students, we were able to work on building graphic design skills by having them utilize Google Drawings to remove backgrounds and put themselves on magazine covers.
In third and fourth grade, we’ve used Breakout EDU to focus on collaboration and communication.
We’ve also worked on building up early-age programming skills in younger students by using Bee-Bots.
Students have also been able to work with the robotics equipment to build a dog obstacle course using basic lego construction.
There have been so many and these are just a few of the highlights from this year so far. The best part of seeing students meaningfully utilize technology and build vital skills is that they are having so much fun. So many vital skills were built during online learning and now we’re constantly reinforcing those skills and continuing to build upon them. Students are engaged and through all of these activities, they don’t realize that they are developing truly innovative skills to help them become computational thinkers.
Q: What are your next steps as you look to the rest of the year?
A: In many ways, the pandemic invited us to innovate and make changes. We are asking questions about the devices our students are using, the renewal cycles for apps and subscriptions to truly see what is most beneficial to work towards our academic goals of creating purposeful learners, critical thinkers, and global collaborators. Technology is such a powerful tool, if and when it is in the hands of quality educators who know how to use it and are willing to take risks as there are days that things might not work. I hope that in my role I will continue to support teachers in taking risks and continue to push administration to ask why more often as we re-evaluate our use of technology post-pandemic.
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As a Google Certified Innovator and Trainer, Dominique loves opportunities for global collaboration and sharing her experiences with educators through workshops and bilingual keynotes. Dominique is currently the K-12 Technology Integration Coach and Technology Program Coordinator at the American School Foundation of Guadalajara, Mexico. As a lifelong learner, she is currently studying her EdD in organizational leadership, pursuing her principal’s license. Dominique is also active on social media, sharing sunny snapshots of life in Mexico as she spends a lot of afternoons at parks with her children and evenings salsa dancing on the terraza with her husband.