John believes it’s the job of a team of educators to empower students in order to help maximize their potential.
In the first grade in North Allegheny schools just north of Pittsburgh, I remember when they pushed in one of the school’s first PCs. It was an Apple ][. It was exciting, and I remember my first experience using the computer was learning to program with LOGO, by moving a turtle across the screen. I would later explore programming and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego in the library, where more computers were available. My parents invested time and money for me to learn programming outside of school, where I took summer classes and gained experience with BASIC and 6502 Assembler.
I also spent my early years exploring music on first an organ, and later a piano at home. Both music and computers have been a constant interest of mine from an early age, where I began to value the opportunity to explore creative ideas with these “machines.” I worked with a friend of mine in high school developing graphic design projects for money, in addition to developing software to help develop skills with the subjunctive tense in Spanish and French. We sold the software to our high school. I ended up taking my trombone to college, along with my Macintosh IIsi.
Creativity and Reflection
Like many educators, I believe in reflecting on our own past experience as learners. Yet, I do not believe what “we experienced” necessarily is the way we ought to move forward. I know what “worked for me” won’t work for all students. But I have valued greatly the time educators have given me, to talk, listen, and engage me as a person. I do want those same types of experiences for our students today. School cannot always be fun or entertaining. Yet, I do believe we can and should strive to make school an engaging place. School today, more than ever, should be personalized for the needs of our students. Above all else, they need to be places that cultivate creativity and reflection.
It is through these two mental processes that I believe we can help maxmize the potential of learners.
I know many folks in my field that absolutely live for books. The recall certain works of literature with such relish, that you almost want to go out and buy the book they’re obviously passionate about. For me, I have that love for music. Specifically, I “connect” with the musical rhetoric present in music from about the 1550s-1790s. I especially connect with musical works from the baroque age, by composers such as Telemann, Vivaldi, and Bach. While music hasn’t been a part of my professional career, I am thankful for the opportunity to perform, listen, and study music. I am an advocate for the arts in education, and for me, understanding how music moves us is part of better understanding humanity.
I have spent over fifteen years working in an educational setting, applying what I know about technology, learning, and pedagogy. It has been exciting work. It's work I never expected to be doing. But I have so enjoyed it, I've made a career out of another one of my interests. Along this journey I've learned a great deal, as well. More recently, I've had the opportunities to lead an entire school district that go beyond using technology in the classroom. Every day I apply a rich belief system to my work. The greatest joy comes to me when I have the opportunities to visit schools, to chat with students, and help support teachers. Everyone one of us who can breathe can learn. It's part of being human. I see technology as an aid at further enhancing our capacity. Steve Jobs said computers were "bicycles for the mind." I believe that sentiment, that technology can propel learning, communication, computation, and vision in ways that help augment our native capabilities.
Among the most exciting accomplishments for me was to plan and lead a 1:1 deployment with iPads for the Goochland Schools. To see what students are doing with these tools many times is simply amazing.
Leadership isn't easy. One of the primary things I see in my role as a leader is changing minds, attitudes, and affecting change in culture and climate of an organization. The rewards feel awesome but it also requires ample amounts of understanding, empathy, and patience. I use my gift of critical awareness to help improve learning outcomes.
Because my work experience has been in a small district, I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate a variety of skills in diverse areas.
- Service on a district’s instructional leadership team, with experience with instructional rounds, creating and developing newsletters, and participating in a number of councils, including gifted education, grant writing, and STEM education.
- Digitization of curriculum using wiki technology to provide ownership and “fludity” to a district’s K-12 curriculum.
- Helped develop a vision for instruction through speaking, training, and coaching of teaching staff and school administrators.
- Development of a blogging initiative for all K-12 teachers since 2005.
- Creation of scores of training videos and podcasts for teachers.
- Expertise with professional video editing and compositing (Motion and Final Cut Pro from Apple).
- Public relations experience.
- Expertise with the Adobe Creative Suite.
- Development of a project-based instructional framework.
- Experience in coaching with instructional design.
- Leadership through the development of three technology plans.
- Deep expertise with Macintosh and iOS platforms.
- Google Certified Teacher.
- Schoology Administration
- Managmeent of teams of librarians and technology coaches
- Development of long-range plans and logistical diagrams
- Communications with diverse audiences, from teachers, to parents, community members, boards, etc.
- Teaching emerging educators and education leaders as an adjunct instructor
- Sharing best-practices and experiences through social platforms