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.

George's Perspective

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 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.