How I’m Utilizing Technology to Help Transform Education at Robinson ISD

Never in a million years would I have placed myself in the position that I am in today. A position that utilizes a plethora of professional and transformational technology that allows the students at Robinson Independent School District (ISD)  to not only experience how it works, but see their possible future in these industries. So often we share at arm’s length about careers and possible secondary opportunities within the technology industry. These experiences tend to lack hands-on, in the trenches learning experiences that can only be obtained with on the job practical training and education.

Enhancing Communication within the Classroom

We are very fortunate here at Robinson ISD to have educators who share the same sentiment as I do for the future of our students. One of the biggest steps we took in helping support our staff deliver their hands-on learning experiences, is ensuring their classroom communication is always clear and high quality no matter where they are in the room. Implementing classroom audio systems such as the Lightspeed Redcat in our classrooms have helped give our teachers and students a stronger voice in the classroom. Clear and concise instruction can help students achieve higher learning outcomes because they know exactly what is expected of them. We have virtually eliminated the need for teachers to raise their voice for redirecting unwanted behavior and our classroom transitions have become more fluid through music ques delivered via the Redcat. Students hear their teacher no matter where they are sitting in the classroom, helping eliminate the need to constantly repeat instructions.

Presentation skills are a key part to our students’ success in communication. We have implemented the Lightspeed Sharemike during classroom student presentations, read-alouds and student teaching opportunities. Students can really find their voice and come alive during speaking opportunities when they have a mic. We know that these skills are vital for their future, so let’s give them the space and opportunity now where they can try, fail, learn and grow as much as they need to.

Embracing creativity and utilizing problem solving skills

One of my missions is to inspire the next generation of creators and innovators that are extremely competitive. In Robinson ISD, starting at our lower levels, we provide opportunities for students to stretch their problem solving skills through coding and engineering projects. Opportunities range from utilizing Lego Education as they construct the next generation of habitats to protect against severe weather events, to coding autonomous robots to better understand geometric figures through and programming drones to fly a planned out route of a shape that they are studying.

I am not a fan of the word “limit” and its negative and stifling connotation in education. Our students and teachers need to try new things as that is where true learning and growth starts. As you know, we need to build authentic relationships to ensure student success, allowing students to let their guards down and show their true passions. One of the best uses of technology that we use to do this is through audio and video content creation. We all see it on social media from our students’ personal lives, but we take it a step further and bring this creative expression into the classroom.

Through the use of Adobe Express and its Animate from Audio features, students utilize just their voice to tell us more about their dreams, passions and ambitions through animation. I get it, not all students are the “hey look at me” type when it comes to being on camera, but most just want to be heard. This provides a “you can hear me now” type of self-expression opportunity without the vulnerability that comes with being on camera.

Providing Opportunities for Technology Career Exploration

Growing up, I knew that creating something from nothing was a gift of mine. Storytelling and creativity was deep inside of me and I found that I could utilize these gifts through audio, video and technology applications. The one opportunity that was lacking in my life was real-world application practice.

Within Robinson ISD, I have been very fortunate to give students the opportunities that I did not have. I am able to provide students creative outlets for their digital creations with various audio/video production tools and resources. Utilizing Adobe products, our students produce graphics for our district communication such as Instagram Stories, Reels and Post to inform our community.

Our students help produce our district High School and Pre-K graduations each year using industry standard equipment like the NewTek TC1 Tricaster for live video switching. We use a show control graphics control board by Daktronics to share senior video and other audio/video assets that will be displayed on the field’s video board throughout the ceremony. This same equipment is used in most major sports arenas and collegiate production facilities around the globe. Students are receiving hands-on training with studio quality cameras and audio field recorders. These learning opportunities have been years in the making and we are growing our programs each year to give our students the best possible chance to be competitive in their future careers or fields of study.

I truly feel technology has always been a driving force in the educational world, providing learning opportunities and experiences that mimic and support building skills beyond the classroom. I feel that using it as a transformational vehicle to help personalize learning for our students, is one of its most powerful ways we can harness its potential in the classroom. It is up to us as educators to really dive in and place our students behind the wheel and in the driver’s seat.

Willie Thomas III, Director of Media Integration at Robinson ISD, works with K-12 students, educators, parents and district leaders to enhance the learning opportunities through the integration of instructional technology. Willie has a Master of Science focused in Instructional Technology.

This article originally appeared on My Tech Decisions