CELL Launches New Tech Advocates Network
They say two heads are better than one. So, just think what more than 20 heads can accomplish! Believing there is strength in numbers, CELL recently created the Network of New Tech Advocates in September as an extension of its highly successful Indiana Network of New Tech Schools. The Advocates Network brings together teachers from Indiana and Illinois New Tech schools to “talk shop” and collaborate on ways to better serve students.
The idea for the Advocates Network originated with the teachers. They felt disconnected from their peers at other New Tech schools and wanted a way to foster the collegiality experienced at New Tech Network national events. To address this issue, CELL and NTN came together to discuss strategies for connecting educators.
What developed was a plan to start small and think big. The two organizations created the Indiana/Illinois Network of New Tech Advocates, which launched in September. The network includes about 20 “advocates” selected to represent each New Tech school and serve more than 500 teachers.
“The advocates were a logical place to start,” said Todd Hurst, CELL school development coordinator. “These teachers have been given leadership roles within the school and can identify better than anyone else how we can support the teachers of Indiana.”
At the first meeting, advocates worked together to address issues including staff burnout, school culture, and creating innovative project ideas.
“I think it’s important to have teachers become totally invested in New Tech. If we don’t model the culture correctly, the students won’t follow suit,” said Riley Johnson, New Tech at Wayne High School (Fort Wayne) advocate.
Each school determined its advocate selection process, with most chosen by fellow teachers. To serve as an advocate, teachers were required to be strong proponents of the New Tech model and be expert project-based learning practitioners.
“The primary reason for me becoming an advocate is to be a continual resource for teachers as well as keeping fidelity to the New Tech model,” said Maryanne Matthews, New Tech Institute (Evansville) advocate.
Each New Tech is unique, but the challenges and opportunities are similar among all schools. Working together, the advocates will determine new and different ways to foster the New Tech model.
“It’s important to have conversations with others in similar situations. Some of us are in small schools, some large, some involved with whole-school conversions, schools within schools, and others teaching at separate sites,” said Johnson. “This meeting helps us work through our problems and allows us to create a mini network on which we can build ideas.”
The advocates then take what they developed back to their schools and fellow teachers.
“The network acts like a bridge. We’re able to utilize the resources gained from talking with others,” said Matthews. “Everyone benefits from this collaboration.”
Published: October 2011