Adam McMickell – Ogden City School District
As the K-12 instructional technology specialist for a district with more than 12,000 students in Ogden, Utah, it’s Adam McMickell’s job to promote learning and engagement through the use of cutting-edge digital education platforms for both students and teachers.
A Google Certified Educator, Trainer and Administrator, McMickell oversees all of Ogden City School District’s (OCSD) instructional technology implementation and professional development needs.
Thanks to his familiarity with Google’s suite of educational apps and tools, called Google for Education, McMickell is able to leverage the resources of one of the world’s leading technology companies to help the entire OCSD community succeed.
Lessons from a tech giant
Used by more than 10 million students and teachers worldwide, Google for Education features a number of familiar Google apps such as Gmail, Drive, Google Docs and Google Hangouts, as well as education-specific apps such as Google Classroom, which give educators a digital, paperless platform to create, distribute and grade assignments.
As a Google Apps campus, every student, employee and teacher in OCSD has a district-managed Google Apps for Education account giving them access to cloud-based applications for word processing, online storage and presentations.
McMickell says the real advantage of this technology is in its ability to give teachers an adaptable approach to education that can be tailored to the specific needs or learning goals of individual students. “They can engage with the content that best meets their particular objectives and, through mobile or cloud-based technology, can engage students well beyond the four walls of their classroom,” he says
By leveraging student’s familiarity with certain Google products, Google for Education allows students to translate an established skillset into an educational opportunity. “Students are tech-savvy, but they are driven by egocentric reasons such as entertainment or social media, so the new challenge for the 21st century is building up that momentum and engaging students in a way where they can use those strengths to enhance their learning,” says McMickell.
McMickell cites an example of a specific student to illustrate how technology tools like Google for Education can help educators better serve their students with customized lesson plans and approaches to learning. The student had struggled to focus in a classroom setting, but through the use of web-based learning platforms, was able to engage with the material in an entirely new way.
“The student had a space to explore ideas where they were comfortable and participate in discussion boards online where they felt much safer. There was an immediate increase in engagement thanks to their being able to tackle the learning on their own time,” says McMickell.
Going to the source
In 2014 McMickell traveled to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, to participate in the Google Teacher Academy. During the two-day course McMickell, along with 50 other educators from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, gained hands-on experience with Google’s educational tools and learned more about promising new instructional strategies and resources.
“As an emerging leader, I felt it was my responsibility to my teachers and community to be exceptional and do my job as best as I could. I ventured down that path and I’m as certified as you can get at this point through Google,” he says.
McMickell had the chance to get an early look at a number of education-related products from the tech giant, including Google Classroom and Google Play for Education, a mobile app store that solves the logistical problems associated with updating individual students or teacher devices by utilizing a system that automatically pushes out new applications or upgrades to every device within a network.
While McMickell was exposed to a wealth of new ideas and tools, he credits the connections he made within the Google Educator community as one of the experiences’ most valuable takeaways.
“The experience itself was phenomenal, but the network that was developed was really special too,” says McMickell. “All 50 of those educators were exceptional and we continue to communicate to varying degrees in a continuing Google Hangout. That becomes a huge resource for our individual districts because we can toss questions into those groups and expect a pretty much immediate and professional response.”
Bringing it all back home
Inspired by his experience at Google, McMickell is now working to bring the same high level of professional development to his own district and recently held a two-day Google Bootcamp for OCSD faculty. “We were really trying to replicate that feeling where you set such a great atmosphere for learning that you walk away having an experience, not just a professional development session,” he says.
The day after the Google Bootcamp wrapped up, 16 of the 30 participants took and passed their web-based Google Educator exam, validating McMickell’s approach and setting up the entire district for success. “We’re building a community and developing our own set of Google Educators,” he says. “The impact will be felt in a variety of spaces; they’ll be better educators, they’ll be able to use tools more effectively and the influence they have with their team will be felt.”
As OCSD faculty continues to earn their Google Educator certification, McMickell will be able to tap these individuals to support further digital learning within the district. This not only increases the overall knowledge base, but frees McMickell up to focus on larger technology issues facing OCSD.
“Most of them want to help support our training initiatives districtwide, so I have talent pool I can draw from so they’re not just hearing from me and my team all the time,” he says.
While it can be difficult to track the effect that such training programs and technology initiatives are having on overall student and faculty success, McMickell has taken to performing regular checks in across the district.
“There are a lot of schools in the district that are in turnaround, so to say we had ‘x’ impact is impossible, but we do interview administrators and try to get a sense if these tools are helping to meet objectives,” he says.
Overall, the instructional technology specialist has been pleased with how technology, specifically Google for Education products, have been integrated into the classroom. “In many regards we’re seeing it make educators lives easier and slowly transforming how they start to interact with each other. From a productivity standpoint, we’re seeing collaborations taking place through Google Docs and I don’t have to remind anyone to share through Google Drive anymore,” says McMickell.
McMickell has accomplished a number of the goals he’s set out to achieve with the district, but says there are no shortage of technology improvements and initiatives to tackles in the future.
“In the last two years, as we’ve moved to Google for Education and tackled the Wi-Fi, I think we’ve really set ourselves up for 1:1 computer access districtwide. The goal is to get the technology in the hands of every student and, based on the results, make sure we have the professional development programs in place to optimize those learning experiences,” he says.
As an emerging expert in the implementation of Google for Education products, as well as a number of other technology offerings, instructional technology specialist Adam McMickell will help the students and faculty of Ogden City School District succeed in an increasingly digital learning environment.
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