JCS Tech Leads

#JCSTechLeads helping district implement techniques with devices


Once the school day ends, more learning begins for Johnson City Schools’ teachers. That was the case last week, when Towne Acres Elementary hosted a technology professional development day for their staff.

Towne Acres teachers Lauren Temm, Patricia Taylor, Karen Bunch, Millie Robinson and Ryan Armstrong, who are all members of the Johnson City Schools’ Technology Teacher Leaders or JCS Tech Leads, led the 25-minute classes.

The idea of the professional development opportunity came from a staff survey that Towne Acres Principal Dr. Josh Simmons and District Literacy Coach JoDee Dotson sent to Towne Acres staff to see what the teachers’ needs were.

“It all started with the survey to see what the needs of our teachers are; in terms of what they need device-wise and what they need training-wise,” said Dr. Simmons. “It’s definitely been very beneficial.”

The JCS Tech Leads program is in its third year and ensures that the district is building capacity to not only integrate instructional technology into the classroom, but are also building a peer support system for teachers.

“When we started our Digital Transformation Plan in 2015-16, we quickly identified that we wanted to prioritize the training of teachers and the development of instructional strategies over the immediate purchase of devices,” Johnson City Schools Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology Dr. David Timbs said. “As part of this approach, the Johnson City Board of Education provided funding for our Tech Teacher Leader Academy. That program has now produced almost 60 teachers who have participated in intensive training, not just in the use of technology, but also the theories and models of blended learning.

“By building capacity among our teachers, we have ensured that principals have educators who can provide peer-led, embedded training and support to their colleagues.  These Teacher Leaders are one of our main arms of ensuring we ‘get it right’ when we ramp up the use of devices and we emphasize that our students are to use tech to produce and create not just consume content.”

Approximately 60 teachers are spread throughout the 11 Johnson City Schools and teachers have an opportunity to apply to go through the Tech Leads academy each year. The Tech Leads are in the schools to provide assistance, advice, suggestions and support as teachers implement the latest technology strategies.

Simmons said having the Tech Leads in his school has been great.   

“To have five people that we can go to with any of our classroom technology questions, it is certainly helpful,” Simmons said. “Hopefully the teachers will take what they learn within this hour and possibly apply it as early as next week.”

Bunch, who led a class about classroom applications Quizizz and Flipgrid, is in cohort 3 of the Tech Leads and said that she has enjoyed picking up new techniques and disseminating them to her peers.

 “As Tech Leads, we learn about tech tools that we can use in the classroom to make things more efficient and to help our students,” Bunch said. “So to bring those skills back and share them with our peers, it helps reinforce those things that we learn. It also helps me try out new things and to go out of my box just a little bit to try new tech tools with our students.”

Other classes were led on how to use Nearpod and Google Forms.

The tech leader opportunity isn’t only provided to day-to-day classroom teachers, Armstrong is a special education teacher at Towne Acres and he said that the use of technology for his students has helped them gain confidence by being able to track their positive progression through different digital applications.

“Through the use of different applications like Google Docs, read and write Chrome extensions, and iPad recording apps, my student's keep an ongoing record of their progress, projects and fluency checks, depending on their needs,” Armstrong said. “Many of my students who need support are able to access the general curriculum through their teacher with the help of technology.”

 To see what JCS Tech Leads are up to, search the #JCSTechLeads on Twitter.