CIRCL perspectives offer a window into the different worlds of various stakeholders in the cyberlearning community — what drives their work, what they need to be successful, and what they think the community should be doing. Share your perspective.
Jenith Mishne is the Director of Educational Technology at Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
How did you get started in cyberlearning?
My background is in teaching, and ever since being a teacher in the classroom, I have been drawn to technology. At the time I had a great principal leader, and was lucky to have his on going support. After several years as a classroom teacher, I moved into a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) Position and begin helping other teachers integrate technology into their classrooms and lessons. I then got pulled up by the district to support all the schools in the district, and now I am the Director of Educational Technology in my school district. So ever since going into the classroom, I’ve always thought of technology as being a great tool. I’ve been focused on how to integrate technology into the instructional content. As an advocate for technology, I like to emphasize that technology should be integrated into the content, but not be the focus. Growing up, people don’t specifically get instruction on how to use a pencil or a pen–– it was just a tool to facilitate learning. And yet we use them all the time. I feel that technology should also be viewed this way.
What drives your work?
I have officially made the crossover to administration, but I am unique because of my educator background. For this reason, teachers really drive my work. I love to spend time with them, help model tools, and be their support. My passion for being a lifelong learner also drives my work, and I try to instill this passion in my teachers as well. I want them to feel comfortable, to engage their students, and to also know that their students are great resources. Kids are using digital tools all day long everywhere, except for when they come to school. I think this is such a shame, and we should harness this opportunity in time to learn how to take advantage of their technological fluency.
What are you struggling with now?
The main piece I struggle with is getting quality time with teachers––45 or 50 minutes is just not enough to teach the tools and for them to also get hands-on time to work into into their content area. This is why summers can be so great. I enjoy teaching teachers over the summer because they are so much more receptive, and have more time. We are starting to do more videotaping and screencasting to add to a bank for teacher references. In all of our sessions, we try to model what we want to see in our classrooms and how we think students will respond and learn best. So we ask teachers to post on discussion boards, collaborate and communicate online through a portal. I will nurture this and keep it going through the school year, but this can be challenging because teachers are always so busy once school starts.
What infrastructure would accelerate the cyberlearning community and education?
Through working in both in the classroom and administration, I see that there are so many products that have various logins––different usernames, different passwords with different requirements, etc. It can be really challenging to keep all these logins straight. It would be great if we could move towards using a single sign-in for all out portals. The time saved could be beneficial for everyone. I believe we need more integration for all the great products that are already out there. The programs don’t all come packaged together neatly, and so there is a real need to link these systems so they can feed into one another. For educators, administrators, and I imagine researchers alike––everyone could benefit from having a seamless portal to work with.
What would you like policy makers (e.g., congress) to know?
Raising awareness to parents, students, and teachers about digital citizenship is extremely important. The world is connected in one sense, but disconnected in another way. A public awareness campaign to help teach about appropiate online behavior, cyberbullying, and privacy is really needed. Common Sense Media has done a great job of this, providing excellent resources for students teachers and parents, but the message needs to be more broadly spread. Students learn through modeling, and we should share the information to parents about modeling appropriate behavior. Children learn from what they see their parents doing – so parents should pay attention to what they post online and whether they text and drive or put their phones away at the dinner table. 🙂