“When master teachers learn how to use technology as a tool to enhance and extend their craft, student growth and achievement accelerates beyond all expectations.” – Geri Gillespy, USA
Administrator of Digital Integration
West Ada School District
Meridian, Idaho, United States
Growing up in California’s Silicon Valley, Geri Gillespy was captivated by the power of technology to do more for students. Now, as her school district’s Administrator of Digital Integration, her favorite activity for any student or teacher is using Microsoft Teams or Skype in the Classroom to connect people and experiences.
Gillespy and her Digital Integration team of five support training and technology integration for all of the district’s 4,000 staff members and 39,700 students. They needed a flexible and efficient tool to develop and model a system that supports learning for all staff and students and chose Microsoft Teams as the communication platform for all 55 schools and district office staff.
“The activities that teachers and students are engaged in throughout our district create opportunities for discussion and authentic collaboration to enhance and extend learning,” says Gillespy. “We have multiple examples of students and staff members using conversations and online meetings in Teams to collaborate across multiple schools and grade levels, as well as using Skype in the Classroom to connect to museums, virtual field trips, and community experts.”
“This practice did not exist two years ago,” she says. “I just met with a group of students and teachers this week, sharing how these tools help them make learning ‘visible.’ The ability to make connections using Skype in the Classroom is just a huge bonus to support the learning that is starting to extend beyond the classroom.”
Like most school districts, West Ada has populations of students and families that need additional support to be educationally successful.
“My role as an educator is defined every time I see examples of the power of technology to support learning for ALL students,” Gillespy shares, “especially those that are at-risk, with special needs, or English learners.”
Gillespy and her team have worked with teachers to use Microsoft Teams calls to offer after-school hours for extra support with assignments. Students with executive functioning disabilities are able to use OneNote to organize their work and use Learning Tools to assist with their reading and writing activities.
“I have been in multiple roles throughout my career as a teacher, academic coach, vice principal, elementary principal, and now a district administrator, and the biggest lesson I continue to learn is that teachers are the magic,” she says. “When master teachers learn how to use technology as a tool to enhance and extend their craft, student growth and achievement accelerates beyond all expectations.”
A MIE Expert, Master Trainer and MIE Fellow, Gillespy believes that education is all about change.
“As a society, we are in a pattern of constant technological change,” she says, “and we know that education must correspondingly adapt to ensure students are ready for the unknown challenges they will face in the future. This natural evolution of change in the world, and in education, is also one of the biggest challenges facing educators today.”
Gillespy says it all boils down to having the right process and support for teachers to integrate new skills and tools.
“If we want to teach students to think outside of the box using different technologies, then we must give educators time and support learning how to make that shift in their practice,” she says. “Teachers must have the beliefs, knowledge, and skills to effectively use any tool in their instructional practice.”
Connect with Geri on her Microsoft Educator Community Profile.
About Geri Gillespy
- Educational background: BA: San Jose State – Child Development/Education MA: University of Idaho – Educational Leadership Boise State University – Ed.S. – Executive Educational Leadership. I am also currently working on my EdD – Curriculum and Instruction at Boise State University.
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Microsoft Teams and OneNote.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? Take the time to “stand on the balcony” and observe others engaged in the activity. That will give you a chance to look at all the possibilities and see the perspectives of everyone in the room.
- Website I check every day: Besides my district department site, social media and news Sites.
- Favorite childhood memory: Anytime I was at Disneyland.
- Favorite book: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech