Career Educator Provides Technology Support in Uncertain Times
By Ed Sibby
Colleagues appreciate Mark Pierson’s teaching and training skills as their district transitions to online learning
Mark Pierson, Teacher on Assignment for Technology in Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District (YCJUSD) in San Bernardino County, is a 31 year-educator who has taught everything from alternative education, online instruction, and elementary education. He found himself in a new paradigm in the 2020-2021 school year; students would begin it entirely online.
For Pierson and their Tech Team, it meant “…the use of technology has become a necessity, not an option.” It’s this shift in how educators deliver the curriculum that has driven the need for training covering a vast range of technology experience and a multitude of products.
“…the use of technology has become a necessity, not an option.”
Pierson’s experience illustrates how hard educators throughout California and the nation have worked to ensure instruction in public schools will continue during the ongoing pandemic.
Confronting challenges collaboratively
When YCUSD determined online instruction would be the safest way to start school, district committees were formed to discuss options and logistics. Technology team members were amazing at organizing all the equipment and getting the data in place for all of the programs educators would need in the new school year.
The initial roadblock was the speed of the transition from working at school to working at home. Difficulties ranged from having adequate equipment as well as internet speed that was up to the task of online instruction.
Once hardware issues were resolved, technology training in the early stages of distance learning focused on getting teachers comfortable with technology and ready for instruction. Early training for Google Classroom beginner level had as many as 50 teachers logging in; by the fifth training, the numbers were fewer than 5. Pierson was pleased to witness the arc of educators’ growth as they moved toward mastery of the many systems and programs required for instructional delivery; “Once members started feeling comfortable with the basics, the other pieces of the puzzle started to fit in place.”
Colleagues show flexibility
“What I learned most about my colleagues is their willingness to learn and their dedication to do what’s best for students”, Pierson remarked. One of the most beneficial resources he was able to employ is a link to his website that shows when Pierson is online. When teachers know they have immediate access to assistance, it helps build their confidence as they learn and work online.
The tech team YCJUSD is talented and collaborative; everybody works to support the teachers and the students and it wouldn’t go as well as it does without everyone on the team.
Laughter and gratitude
Keeping a sense of humor when depending on technology isn’t easy, but it’s important. According to Pierson, nothing makes a teacher feel better than to have the tech guy have issues with technology too; “I have had several lessons where the connection was lost, but I kept talking for several minutes before I noticed and then I rejoined the meeting. It’s a helpful reminder that nobody’s perfect, you just need to keep learning and doing your best.”
Pierson receives affirmation daily, and educators have made sure he knows his impact- in ways great and small. Although he is not assigned to a daily classroom, his peers so appreciated the districtwide impact he was nominated for teacher of the year. Still, it’s his colleagues’ positive attitudes during this stressful time that continues to impress him.
Accommodations and advice for late adopters
Pierson reminds educators to pace themselves and reach out for help when they need it;
“Embrace the fact that things may not go well the first few times trying it. Talk with fellow teachers, use the supports in place for assistance, and try not to tackle too much at once.”
Starting smaller and building on the less complex is a good strategy, particularly when using new technology; Pierson shared a story to make the point. “A teacher I was working with was trying Google slides with her students and the comment she made after the assignment has always stuck with me, she said ‘I wish I would have started with a paragraph instead of having them write a whole story’”.