The “MacGuyver” Mindset

I love telling folks I work for Manor ISD. They gaze at you like you just started to glow and say, ” The place where Obama came?” I smile, and say,”Yes, He came to Manor New Tech High School.” As a teacher, you walk into New Tech and feel just as Charlie did when he toured Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Every passion, belief, and hope I have for our broken education system is laid to rest when you tour that campus. They are just doing such amazing things! If you have never seen it. Go. Now.

BUT we also have 12 other schools in our district. These other schools are NOT 1-1. Some of our campuses dongle into a tv screen to project because they have no projector. Some of our campuses have 16 iPads available for checkout, but they are iPad 1′s with no camera and therefore cutting student creation opportunity in half. We do have 3 other 1-1 campuses, but some are actually 60%. You can see the look of despair on teacher’s faces when you explain all the things they could do with technology in their classrooms because they focus on what they don’t have, or the management issues that might arise, or find that the technology is glitchy when they do use it. George Couros recently came and spoke at Manor High School and said, “When we say we won’t use the technology available because it won’t work for us, we communicate to our students that they don’t have to use that math when it just won’t work for them.” Implementing Tech into low tech areas becomes a matter of practicing the perseverance we preach to our students.

Technology setups are so different for whatever reason at each campus, and teachers often focus on the “have nots” mindset. But then there are some that engage with what I can only describe as “MacGuyvering” tech usage in their classrooms. These teachers prove their growth mindset because they see the need and that our students deserve the opportunity to collaborate and be digitally creative.

Let’s take Blake Manor Elementary for example. When I was assigned Blake Manor, I quickly assumed that I would not spend much time at that campus because they have a few classrooms with even a projector. Many share one with a grade level. Yes, there are iPads in the library but they are 1′s with no camera. When you want to see student create, no camera presents some pretty tall hurdles to jump over. Yet, this is the campus I am constantly running to. This is the campus where Ms. Simpson is begging me to come spend an extra 20 minutes of computer lab time getting their kids logged into their district Google account.

Now, if you have never seen a 2nd grader send their first email, I can assure you it is the same as watching a little one taking their first steps. I got email responses like this…

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.38.02 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.37.28 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.38.28 PM

One girl inquired if you could do this at home. Before I knew it, this 2nd grader was showing her mom how she could email me from home and figured out the conventions of email naming so she could thank her teacher as well. 2nd grade, ya’ll, in a school where many teachers can only rely on their transparancy projector. This came out of a no iPad classroom.

Down the hall is a 5 iPad classroom. Ms. Boatright’s class was hoping to better practice strong beginnings through digital storyboarding in their fiction writing and happened to be writing spooky stories during the Halloween season. We decided that the structures in the imovie trailer app were perfect for having students storyboard their writing. The next time I popped in at Blake Manor, every Instructional Tech Specialist’s dream came true.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.39.50 PM┬áMs. Boatright didn’t just use tech for tech’s sake. She saw dramatic improvement in the writing structure these 4th graders were producing. There is so much happening to innovate the learning environment from our lowest tech campus. Here are the things that set Blake Manor apart…

1. They get what they get and don’t throw a fit. They have a can do mindset and are unaware of what their don’t have.

2. They create the time to make innovation happen. Many campuses see technology as an add on to the sheer impossible amount of tasks a teacher has on their to do list. They don’t halt instruction or pacing calendars. They ask for 15-20 minutes of an open pocket in the computer lab.

3. They make student creation happen in whatever “MacGuyver” fashion they must-duck tap, paper clips, bubble gum, and all. I’ll tell you they are one of the happiest campuses for doing so!

One thing we know about technology for sure is that it will most often get glitchy right when you need it to work. But that is it’s nature. Technology forces you to problem solve, collaborate, and ask for help. Your students need to engage with you in the troubleshooting process when the tech goes south. Adopting that MacGuyver mindset with grow your students more than your strongest delivered directly instructed lesson ever could.

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About Lacy Bartlett

This year has brought amazing changes for Lacy that includes moving to a new state, transitioning out of the classroom, and landing her dream job in Manor's Instructional Technology Department. She and her husband, Aaron, along with our two fur children, Dolby & Daisy, have just moved here from Fresno, California as of June. As a classroom teacher, she dreamed of moving to Austin, transitioning out of the classroom, and assisting teachers in integrating innovative teaching into their classrooms. Manor ISD has made all those dreams come true! She is already going through "classroom withdrawals" and empathizes with everything teachers balance on a daily basis. Wherever you are at on the technology spectrum, invite me over and I will strategize on how technology can make your classroom more innovative, efficient, and 21st century learning environment. Her goal is that you will learn something new, feel supported in your implementation, and be amazed at what your students will create.

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