“Sometimes we make a huge difference when we don’t even know about it and, at the end of the day, students of all ages just want to know that they matter and that they can find a place in your classroom and the world around them.” – Scott Bricker, USA
Director of Educational Technology
Santa Margarita Catholic High School
Rancho Santa Margarita, California, USA
When Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Scott Bricker was named Director of Educational Technology at Santa Margarita Catholic High School (SMCHS) in 2013, he knew he had a big job ahead of him: leading the full implementation of the school’s 1:1 tablet PC program.
After first distributing devices to faculty during the ‘13- ‘14 school year, all 1725 students received tablets during the summer of 2014, and the school rolled out Office365, OneNote and other Microsoft tools. For Bricker and his school (now a Microsoft Showcase School), the change has paid off.
“We have transformed the way we do things as a school here at SMCHS in just a couple years with the implementation of OneNote and Office 365 and with the recent advancements and additions of Class Notebook, Learning Tools, Classroom and more to come,” Bricker says. “I am so excited to see where we can take it and how we can make teacher and student outcomes more impactful than ever.”
A life-long learner, one key to Bricker’s success is his adoption of a growth mindset.
“I am working very hard with my students to help them understand what a growth mindset means and how they can apply it in my class, and in every other aspect of their lives during and beyond high school,” Bricker tells us. “Closely attached to this is the idea that students are bred to believe they should not make mistakes, especially when it means their grade suffers which ultimately leads to not getting into the best college. There’s a huge leap there, admittedly, but I think it is crazy for students to be so afraid of making mistakes and I fear many teachers contribute to that far too often.”
With the success of his school’s 1:1 program, Bricker is keenly aware of the inequities in our education system that stand in the way of many students’ success.
“There needs to be a better plan for how to get all students access to technology,” he says. “Those who can afford it seem to be experiencing the huge gains technology can provide, but there are so many students who may never realize the benefit of using OneNote, searching the internet, or creating/watching a video tutorial without access to these tools. I hope companies like Microsoft continue to work on building affordable software and devices that can be placed in the hands of more and more students across our country.”
Well said, Scott! Here’s more – including some great tips for a successful 1:1 implementation — from today’s Daily Edventure, Scott Bricker.
What do you see as the greatest challenges in education today – how are schools responding?
From a big picture perspective, getting and keeping the best teachers across the country is a huge issue with tremendous need for overhaul. I don’t understand how each state can have a separate credentialing process for their teachers when we are all supposed to teach the same, or at least similar, content. If Common Core is really going to work, which is a separate discussion altogether, shouldn’t all teachers have the same training to teach that content?
In California especially, the credentialing programs do not really train people to be teachers. We need to talk more about how to connect with students, how to inspire them, how to live and thrive in this technological age, and so much more. In terms of how schools respond to this issue, I definitely think each district/school needs to have their own onboarding and ongoing training to further train teachers on the unique culture of that district/school, which I am sure most do. But if the training at the state and national level was improved, imagine how freed up districts and schools would be help those teachers dig deeper, rather than having to spend so much time covering all the basics.
What are the leadership qualities that you admire the most in others?
This is such a great question because I think it is a challenge schools and districts everywhere are faced with on a daily basis, and it is so easy to get bogged down by what we are teaching from day to day that we lose sight of the bigger picture of things.
So my #1, most important leadership quality is having an ability to see and connect to the bigger picture on a school campus or across a district. As school leaders, we should not ever make a decision in a vacuum or without considering the impact to multiple parties on our campus because that kind of short sightedness can lead to doubt and lack of trust on the part of the teachers toward the school leadership.
This leads directly to #2, which is the ability to build effective, positive relationships across the entire team. When leaders are able to build relationships with their team, they begin to see well beyond just the names of their team members, and connect more with who they truly are and, even more important, what motivates them in their job and in their role on the team. When you understand that, you have a window into how you can coach them to be a contributing member of your team.
With this question I also think about Rita Pierson, whose TED Talk Every Kid Needs a Champion has over 1,600,000 views. The quote of hers that always sticks out in my mind is, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like,” and I absolutely believe that to be true. When I look for teachers to join our staff, and reflect on the ones who are most successful in education, I look for those who have the ability to connect with their students in a way that allows those students to see the teacher as a real person.
As a school leader, I want to be able to not just demonstrate that philosophy in my own actions, but to also inspire and develop that in the practices of teachers everywhere. Be a champion for these kids and fight for them and their opportunity to make the most of learning in your class. If you do, and you genuinely care for them, they will do anything for you!
Schools aren’t all about curriculum and routine, they are places which can show the best we are. Could you share a short anecdote about an event that touched you?
I feel so very fortunate to say I have numerous stories of people and situations in my career that have touched me, and I want nothing more than for every teacher/educator/administrator to be able to say the same. For me, it has always been about the relationships and I work every day to build solid relationships with my students and all the other kids on campus, in addition to developing trust and connection with the faculty and staff I train and coach to help all of them achieve the highest level of success possible.
A few years ago I had a student in my Algebra 2 Honors class who was a great student, but had to work extremely hard to keep her grade at the level she wanted. Things did not necessarily come easy or natural to this student but, at the same time, I didn’t really hear from her nor did she ask any questions, because she was shy and new to the school.
At the end of the year, the student walked up to me and handed me a note on the last day and just said thank you for making math fun. The letter went on to thank me for all I did, and noted how lucky all my students were to have me as a teacher. I think I have read it 20 times over the past years whenever I needed a pick-me-up or reminder that I am making a difference with these kids on a daily basis.
I try to remind myself of that, especially on those days where it feels like nothing we try as teachers is working. Sometimes we make a huge difference when we don’t even know about it and, at the end of the day, students of all ages just want to know that they matter and that they can find a place in your classroom and the world around them.
What are you reading for professional renewal, and do you have any take away thoughts to share?
Right now I am reading Mathematical Mindsets, by Jo Boaler, which is largely based on the work of Carol Dweck. As a math teacher I have long been frustrated by students who get to high school and say they are either great or terrible at math, not to mention that 99% of the time, that self-perception is directly correlated to whether they like or hate math.
I have always considered myself to be a life-long learner, always wanting to get better, learn more and improve myself, and the idea of growth mindset perfectly fits that desire. The book mentions the philosophy that they “want students to make mistakes, yet many classrooms are designed to give students work that they will get correct.” It goes on to discuss how research points to the fact that “our brains grow to a greater extent when we make a mistake.” If this is true, today’s classrooms –and maybe more important, teachers and teaching practices — need to change for the better!
Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom? Can you share a particular instance in which technology helped transform your school and the work from the students?
The first time I saw OneNote, my whole world changed. I have wondered for the past few years as we have been using OneNote on our campus, how in the heck I ever taught without this amazing tool. Giving our students the ability to type their notes in one location, add digital ink to those notes in the form of highlighting or additional annotation, solving math or science equations, importing PowerPoints and other Office docs, while all the time having all those files, text, etc. searchable by students and teachers is revolutionary to say the least.
What are some steps you can share for a successful whole school transformation plan?
- Identify key players on campus or in your district that can get things done. If you don’t have solid, passionate, forward-thinking leadership to take on whole school transformation, you will struggle to realize any sort of success.
- Start simple. We began our implementation of our 1:1 program with the Five Essentials (Office 365, OneNote, LMS, Windows 8/10, Classroom Management software) that still exist in the same format today, at the beginning of our third year of this program. They have definitely evolved over time, but at the core, the program is exactly as it began because of the work we did as a school to grow slowly and methodically.
- Directly related to #2, have a plan/goal and always work toward it, allowing yourself the freedom to expand on those goals and add new ones as you reach the initial ones. Whenever you take on school transformation, there is going to be pushback, and if you do not have clear reasoning and goals attached to the transformation, teachers, parents and students will work to rip open the holes in your plan until it ultimately falls short.
- Stay the course. Even if you have covered steps 1-3, there will be those who will try to destroy the foundation and structure of your program. Battle them with logic, stories of success, your displays of passion and much more. Teachers, although stubborn creatures often prone to resist change, are logical people who will realize that what you are doing is best for the entire school community.
- Always think big picture and look 2-5 years down the road…especially as it relates to technology. It is very easy to get bogged down managing the day-to-day at schools. Because technology is ever changing, sometimes by the minute, it is important to have someone, or a team, charged with staying on the leading edge of what is and will be available to your school/district. If you wait to find out about everything until after it is released, it will delay the success of your program and, in some cases, prevent you from reaching one or more of your goals.
About Scott Bricker
Director of Educational Technology
Santa Margarita Catholic High School
Rancho Santa Margarita, California, USA
- Blog URL: brickercoaching.wordpress.com
- Birthplace: San Diego, California
- Educational background: BA, Journalism (1998) from University of Arizona; MBA (2010)
- Website I check every day: espn.com
- Favorite childhood memory: Playing sports and going to the beach.
- Favorite book: The Great Gatsby, How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: OneNote and OneNote Class Notebook…hands down!
- What is the best advice you have ever received? One of my bosses in college told me to always stay young and be around people who can inspire you to always be passionate about everything you do in life.