From the back of the classroom to the frontline of education management, passionate educator and school principal Paul Baez talks about his work journey, Education Technology and Popplet.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I have been in education since 1995 and I have learned so much from every experience I have had, being a fourth grade classroom teacher, Assistant Principal, and now Principal. I feel fortunate to have worked in three different Houston area school districts and five different schools. Each experience has pushed me to the next level of leadership and has reinforced my belief that I chose the right career path.
What do you love about your work?
I love my role of leading a school of educators at Rees Elementary School, ensuring that we provide a great learning experience for every student. It is a responsibility that I fully embrace. As much as I enjoyed being a fourth grade classroom teacher, I knew twenty years ago that I wanted to have an even greater impact on students and here I am now. Growing up I was that kid in the back of the room that kept quiet and never said anything. Now I can’t stop talking about technology in education. Makes me chuckle to think how much I’ve changed over the years.
We were impressed by the popplet Parent Technology Night you posted on Twitter recently, inviting parents to come and sample classroom technology like Popplet – how’s that going?
Over the last four years our campus has gone from having zero mobile devices and limited tech tools to a technology rich environment. With Educational Technology changing so fast and in so many ways in the last ten years, it is our campus vision to use technology to help personalize learning for every student. With this technology integration journey, it has been very important for me and my staff to include parents in the process. Blended Learning with technology is very new for parents and our goal on Parent Technology Night was to expose parents to the same apps we are using everyday at Rees Elementary. Most of our parents have had a very traditional education and do not understand how apps like Popplet can be much more engaging than only using pencil and paper.
How do you decide which apps students and teachers use in class?
To be honest, the creation apps like Popplet that we have adopted as “Core Rees Apps” were first tested by me. This of course is not a typical responsibility for a Principal, but I have always seen the potential of the impact technology could make in the classroom. I have spent a lot of late nights, and some early mornings researching apps that I believe will help teachers increase student engagement and allow for a more creative way for students to communicate what they have learned. I have been very strategic about selecting apps that were user friendly and that also “substitute” a learning task or strategy teachers regularly use in their classrooms. In my talks with other Principals about our blended learning initiative at Rees, I always encourage them to start with “Substitution” apps based on Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model. My teachers have embraced apps that have been introduced this way.
How do you use Popplet?
Great question! Over the last four years, I have intentionally made an effort to model technology integration for my staff. I was using Popplet to organize events, information and schedules before I ever introduced it to my teachers at Rees. Take a look at my Popplet home page:
What is it about Popplet that you like?
Popplet is just a great organizational tool. I have used my school budget to purchase campus-wide individual student and teacher accounts. Being able to share a Popplet with others supports our campus vision of providing students with opportunities to collaborate with others regularly. Popplet is so simple to use yet so very engaging for students. Our goal is to have our students choose from a list of creation apps like Popplet. This gives them choice and supports creativity and collaboration,
What do your students like about Popplet? What’s their favourite thing? How do they react when you tell them they are going to use Popplet?
Rees Stars absolutely love Popplet. If you check out our Twitter account, Rees Elementary @ReesStars, you will see many examples of students creating their own Popplets. Being able to add video, audio, images, and text so easily makes teachers happy and kids excited. It is a great tool that students can use independently and successfully.
What do the teachers like about using Popplet?
It engages their students and it is simple to use. It “substitutes” a strategy that they already used.
How would you recommend Popplet to other teachers? What would you say to them?
I would use Popplet in my classroom! Just try it and you will fall in love.
Thank you very much for talking to us Paul!