Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet George Warriner
George is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for the Sheboygan Area School
District in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He has worked in education as a 7-12 math teacher,
K-5 math specialist, math resource teacher, technology resource teacher and baseball
coach. George is currently a doctoral student at Pepperdine University in the
Educational Technology program.
I have been in my position in Sheboygan for about 5 years now. Things were going along
pretty well, but I seemed to be losing the edge to my view of technology in education.
We were just trying to get things working and make sure the teachers and students
were supported with technology as well as possible. When my plan to enroll in the
Pepperdine Ed.D. program was approved by the district, I had no idea how immediate
and powerful the impact would be.
Now, I had taken on-line courses in the past but I found them to be lacking in
urgency and personal relevance. My motivation for these courses quickly waned
after the initial excitement. I was uncertain how a doctoral program could sustain
my interest when about half of the coursework was conducted on-line. Enter TAPPED IN.
What I remember about my initial TI sessions was that the time went by really fast
and that I felt overwhelmed, excited, and motivated. Our first semester TI sessions
were held at 10pm central time so it was very difficult to gear down to go to sleep
for me and my wife, who heard every joke and major topic that we covered.
Now TI (TI2, the new version of TAPPED IN, mostly now) acts as a way to keep up
with my cadre mates and professors on a regular basis. The pace has become more
reasonable Ð or perhaps my pace has increased! TI has helped me develop and maintain
more relationships with colleagues than I have ever been able to in the past.
Our Pepperdine cadre has begun to use TI2 as a way to create continuous learning
opportunities. For example, I would invite anyone who is interested in L.S. Vygotsky,
or Cultural Historical Activity Theory, to go to the Vygotsky Learning Community Room
(it is moderated so you have to email the owner to join). Here we will be posting
articles, sharing resources and having discussions with others from California to Finland.
Now about regaining the edge to my view of technology in education, I have only been
using TAPPED IN for six months, but it has already had a significant impact in two
areas in our school district.
I am teaching a class from Aurora University for our teachers called "Technology in
the School of the Future". It is a required part of a master's degree in education.
Most of the students are not technology geeks, but are doing their best to use
technology to help their students learn, and they didn't really understand what all
the commotion was about on-line discussion/chatting and how it affected their students.
In an effort to bring them up to speed with what some of their "digital students"
were doing, we enrolled in a Yahoo group I set up for the class. We struggled mightily
with the format and the flow of the organization of Yahoo. But they persisted and we
began using the newsgroup.
After a couple of weeks, I realized that I would be missing a class while I was at
a face to face at Pepperdine, so I gave the class two alternatives: either make up
the class at a later date, or utilize TAPPED IN to conduct our class. They
overwhelmingly decided to risk doing TI2. So we ran a trial session all together
in the same room. They were impressed with how easy it was to get registered and
into my office area, compared to our Yahoo experience. The moment they began to
"talk" to each other on-line, the room became quiet until someone said "Wow, I can
see how kids can get addicted to this!"
The next week we held class on-line. I was in LA (outside in the sunny courtyard)
and the class was in cold and snowy Sheboygan. When we talked about how it went
they said they were exhausted and couldn't believe where the time went! They felt
very satisfied with their new technology expertise and intrigued with this new way
to conduct class.
Since then, we have used TI2 to have class discussions and the students have
said they would like to continue their on-line connections throughout the rest
of their master's program. TI2 has been an easy way for them to begin to understand
what potential on-line learning tools offer and it will serve to maintain their
connections with each other.
Our district is also looking to establish an on-line school in the near future.
For the reasons stated above, I was not very excited about on-line courses. However,
my views have changed. Now, I am anticipating that a major portion of the on-line
access will be with TI2. The ability for students and teachers to share information,
resources and conversations all in the same venue is fantastic! The transcripts for
students and teachers to review class discussions can change the way we talk about
things. For instance, instead of having the same discussion for all 3 sections of
a literature class, the discussions can be on different topics and the transcripts
can allow students to get the benefits of the discussions in the other sections.
In addition, archives of past student work can eliminate the mystery of teacher
expectations and on-line discussions with experts can serve to enlighten and
motivate learners to go that extra step. This will be a very different school
than what we think of today, and very different from most of the on-line course
offerings that exist.
As a product of "sit and get" education, the idea of "go out and get" education
was hard for me to imagine, but TAPPED IN has been a catalyst for me to understand
how learning activities can be transformed, and how an on-line environment can
foster relationship building and knowledge sharing.