Episode # 37
Building EdTech Relationships with Amy Romes
May 25, 2023
About This Episode
After 25 years in education – including more than a decade in the classroom – Amy Romes understands that encouraging teachers in her district to incorporate educational technology starts with trust. For Amy, helping teachers do even more amazing work requires investing time in those relationships. In a 2:1 district like Springboro, it also takes a unique, teacher-led approach.
[00:00:40] Caryn: Today we have joining us, Amy Romas, an educational technologist from Springboro schools. Hi, Amy. How are you?
[00:00:48] Amy: I’m doing well. How are you guys doing today? We’re
[00:00:50] Caryn: great. So excited to have you on. We’ve known Amy for a long time and she’s going to be an awesome guest.
So we’re excited. So before we dive in, [00:01:00] because we’re going to have. all sorts of questions and talk about some great things today. Could you tell us a little bit about your journey into education and educational technology?
[00:01:11] Amy: Yeah, sure thing. I’ve been in education a long time, and as I’m thinking back, I feel very old as I go through everything.
This is my this is my 25th year in education, which Seems just insane to me. Actually started out in first grade. I was a first grade teacher. Love teaching first grade and then decided to go back and get my master’s in educational technology because I just had always loved computers and tinkering with things.
And then a job came up and a middle school. So one year I went jump. Yeah. One year I went from teaching first graders, seven year olds to teaching eighth graders. So I always say that I went from teaching, from tying shoes one year to dealing with boys and hormones and kids that were much [00:02:00] larger than me the next year.
Yeah. It was, it was a huge jump, but I absolutely loved it. I love those crazy middle schoolers and. Teaching technology and Legos and robots and starting the whole coding thing. When it first came out, you know, like 15 years ago, it was a lot, a lot of fun.
Then about. I don’t know. Gosh, 12 years ago, my husband took a job towards Cincinnati. Something in Springboro opened up, thankfully, because we needed to move down south a little bit further. So I decided to teach technology at our junior high and our sixth grade building.
That was my wheelhouse. I loved it. I taught computers here for three or four years, and then that led me into my current role now, which is educational technology. So I taught for a really long time. I love teaching. I love working with kids, obviously. And now I actually get to teach the teachers how to integrate and use technology within their [00:03:00] classrooms.
So I feel like I’ve kind of come full circle. I worked with little ones, the middle school ones, and now the teachers, and I get to do it all again.
[00:03:08] Kara: Yeah, that’s cool. I was just going to ask you if you were still teaching and
[00:03:13] Amy: you are. I do. Yeah, I get, yeah, teachers reach out to me all the time and they say, how do I get to, how can I, you know, integrate technology or how do I, I’ve got a lesson, how can I do use technology and I actually go into the classrooms and I’ll either team teach or I’ll, you know, meet with small groups and work with students.
So yeah, I still, I’m still in the classroom a lot and that’s what I love doing. Yeah. How do
[00:03:37] Kara: you think that you’ve built that? Yeah. like, you know,
[00:03:41] Caryn: where teachers will reach out to you. Yeah.
[00:03:46] Amy: It’s taken time to build relationships. A lot of trust. It’s my first couple years. They were kind of like, Oh, like, you know how to teach, you know how to do this. I’m like, Yeah, I taught for a long time. Helped a lot that my [00:04:00] own kids are in the school district. So Relationships with teachers, but I just was able to see at one elementary school, so I still had another elementary school where I didn’t know the teachers.
So I had to go in there and really, like, get to know them. And then, you know, during P. D. I would, you know, like, work with them. And then it was just that whole trust issue and it’s taken a long time. But now I really do feel comfortable. I can walk into. Any classroom at any time. And they’re like, Oh, sure.
Come on in. Or, Hey, I need to step out for a minute. Can you watch my kids? We just have that great relationship. So it’s fun, but it has taken. Yeah,
I think it just, it takes time and you can’t go in and change. I want to change things and force your ideas or force the technology on people. That’s not the way to do it. I think the best thing, the best advice with a person who’d be starting a new role like this is to go in and listen, listen, get to know their needs, you know, and just baby step the whole way.
And then just kind of just go in and maybe. Hey, can I model a [00:05:00] lesson or what can I do for you? And you’re in this role, I feel like as customer service and support. So it’s going to take time,
[00:05:08] Kara: right? Yeah. Well, and I think that’s an important message to send because I also think another thing that happens is your role is something that’s kind of outsourced and then.
you know, they may or may not have the same person either year to year, or they might keep them for a couple of years. And then it’s like, there they go. And so that time is never available for them to establish those relationships in order to make something magical happen.
[00:05:40] Amy: You totally hit that on the head. And I feel very lucky that Springboro has really, you know, like embrace this role and realize the importance of it because you have, you have one person coming in one year and out the other year, you’re never going to develop those relationships. I mean, it’s just impossible.
[00:05:58] Kara: Yeah. So bravo to your administration.[00:06:00]
[00:06:00] Amy: I really do. Yeah.
[00:06:02] Kara: So I’m going to ask you about your, the STEM and technology program, because I know you said with your middle schoolers, you taught robots and coding and all of that stuff. How has that evolved into your role now? And I guess maybe talk about the creation of the tech and STEM program.
[00:06:23] Amy: it’s actually really, it’s, it’s pretty cool. It’s actually morphed a lot. We have at our elementary schools we have two elementary schools, grades two through five. And when I first got here in this role, it was kind of like your traditional tech classes how to do slides PowerPoint docs.
Yeah. You know, your traditional classes, but then what we realized is we need to integrate that more within the classroom. So we’re like, Okay, what does that traditional tech classroom look like? So what we’ve kind of actually done is we still teach those building block skills, you know, how to log onto the computer, how to do the basic skills, [00:07:00] but then you’ve actually morphed that into more of a stem based class.
Because it just makes more sense to do the coding, to do the robots, to explore the STEM possibilities than sitting out there and, you know, typing for a half an hour or doing a slide deck when you could be doing a slide deck in the actually like ELA classroom and integrate the class, you know, integrate while you’re, you know, working on your content.
Right. It’s been really cool. We have two really great stem teachers who have embraced this model, and I mean, they have done a fantastic job with it. They’re using some of the dot and dash robots. And they’re using the Blockly code for like the STEM possibilities. But they also do a lot of things that are, that are not computer based, that are just hands on activities.
They’re doing a lot of cross collaboration between the art and the music and the technology to actually make it a full steam experience, which I have kind of thought that way. But when you get all, you know, [00:08:00] all your people together, they’re really thinking outside the box and bringing in bigger ideas than I could even imagine.
[00:08:05] Kara: So do the tech teachers collaborate too with the like homeroom teachers?
[00:08:11] Amy: They do. Okay. So yeah, so it’s kind of, it’s a really, it’s a cool process and I don’t know how these teachers are doing it. I’m supporting them, you know, with different ideas and trying to, you know, get all the information I can, but let’s say in second grade, if they were working on habitats and animals, they’ll get in there and say, okay, how can we best support you?
So they might, you know, do a slide deck. They might introduce the kids, you know, how to do a little bit of research. Instead of Googling something, they might actually use databases. So they’re building that whole tech side on there. Then maybe they might, you know, decide to do a STEM activity and actually build a physical habitat.
So they’re trying to really get, and even the art teachers get involved and they’re actually, you know, they’re painting and they’re, they’re building something with clay. So everything is, is in the elementary world is very [00:09:00] cross curricular.
That’s very cool.
It’s amazing. They just did a whole at five points.
Elementary are. Tech and our art teacher actually did a whole glow unit where they talked about, you know, how does, how does chemistry work with, with paint properties and glowing features, the art teacher painted all of these glow pictures and glow things, the stem teacher got all of these glow materials brought in black lights, talked about the different properties and how the chemistry is made up.
Had marble runs that were glowing in the dark, had black lights, they had different manipulatives they can build. And then for the last day of the celebration, they had all the art in one room. They had brought black lights in, the room was glowing. Oh, how fun. The kids were building, I mean, it was amazing.
And the kids were using the vocabulary and they were talking about how the different properties were working. It was so cool. That
[00:09:58] Caryn: is so cool. I [00:10:00] know they’re going to remember that. Yeah.
[00:10:02] Amy: Yeah. And I went in there and just, and I played for like three hours and the kids were telling me all about how the different things were working together and they had robots out and they were, I mean, it was just a total, like just STEM, like fun, fun day.
That is so cool.
[00:10:17] Kara: You are not a one to one district, correct?
Correct. Okay. So can you talk a little bit about what The district is and how you address the technology. I guess that would be what access.
[00:10:35] Amy: Yeah, yeah, sure thing. And when we say when I go to meetings and talk to parents and they say that we’re not one to one, they’re, they’re kind of floored because that’s not.
It’s not the standard. It’s not what pretty much everybody in Ohio or the United States is doing, but we’ve we’ve kind of figured out that what works best in spring grows. We’re actually a 2 to 1 model. We do that is we realize, do [00:11:00] we want every child at all times in a classroom behind a computer?
No, we have a teacher and a very, you know, and a very experienced teacher in that classroom, you know, giving lessons, breaking in small groups. Why would we have a teacher in a classroom if we have, you know, 30 kids behind a computer? And the teacher’s up there. You have an expert in the classroom who is there, who is willing to help.
Kids are on technology all the time. And I mean, obviously, I love computers. I love technology. But does a child need to be on a computer all the time? I mean, you’ve got, you know, they need to interact. They need to have hands on activities. So that’s one, I think, one of the biggest rationales and one of the main reasons we decided not to go one to one.
And thankfully, I mean, it’s honestly, it is working for us. A lot of times what we do, even in our high school, is we do a lot of station rotations, okay?[00:12:00]
Because what we do is, even in our math department, we’ll do a lot of flip classroom. So the teachers will go through and they’ll actually, you know, assign, you know, the video the night before. A lot of our higher level math classes are doing this, as an example, in our pre calc class rooms.
They’ll say, watch the video the night before. Okay, see how you’re doing the work on the homework there within the class, and then they’ll say, Okay, let’s go ahead. And if you’re not sure about this topic of this topic, leave your computers at your desk. Come meet with me at the table. And let’s actually work on this.
It’s almost like an elementary classroom setting because yeah. It works. They do that in the second grade classroom, the third grade classroom. So every child does not need to be on a computer all the time because you can effectively run a classroom with almost like a two to one, break your class up. You know, half the class can work on something, half the class can meet with teachers, or even, you know, just do it in stations.
[00:12:55] Kara: really cool. Especially thinking about it at a high school
[00:12:59] Amy: [00:13:00] level. Yeah, and it’s, it’s been a hard switch. I mean, because I mean, you think about a high school, usually it’s more of a lecture based classroom or kids are working, but we’ve had a lot of our middle school, high school teachers embrace that.
Oh, my gosh. Like, we can have a child work on, let’s say, a program. Like Lexi or some, like a math program, for example, get some great data, either work on it in class or the night before, use that data and then go through and actually use work on small groups within the classroom. So, we have seen a lot of really good things happening in class that way and.
Let kids, you know, do the think, pair, share. Let them work in groups. They don’t need to be on the computer all the time.
[00:13:42] Kara: Yeah, learn from each other. I’m curious, have you heard any feedback from the kids? Like, you know, especially the older kids, whether they appreciate it or whether they feel like it really helps them
[00:13:55] Amy: yeah, we have a lot of times the kids and it’s, it’s just differently, you know, chatting, [00:14:00] chatting with a lot of kids. A lot of times the kids are like, you know what, like we sometimes they prefer paper. It’s just, they’re kind of going back and they’re like, you know, we’ve been on the computer for so long.
We go on instagram. We’re on snapchat. Give us something tangible. Give us some, some paper Let us just write, and it’s just so funny because you think the teenagers would want the computers and the technology, but sometimes they just want to, they just want to write.
[00:14:26] Kara: Which I totally get. Cause I’m like that too. Like as much as I love a computer and whatever, sometimes I just enjoy writing on paper, you know, with a pen or a pencil
[00:14:38] Amy: we are kind of a mixed environment as well. We are also a BYO. . So if kids, okay, which stands for Bring your Own device. Okay. Or B y o t. Bring your own technology, ot. Okay. So if, if a child wants to bring their own Chromebook, which we always say it’s easier to bring a Chromebook just because, you know, the teachers know how to use it, [00:15:00] the battery life.
But if they prefer an. If they prefer a MacBook or a laptop, they can bring in their own device as well. That way they don’t have to borrow. And then when the time comes, when there is a computer activity, they can pull out what they’re used to using and they have it right there as well.
[00:15:17] Kara: Now I know some people would say, well, how do you monitor and manage that?
[00:15:23] Amy: Sometimes it’s a headache. I will be honest. It is. Our teachers have done a fantastic job. We’ve had this model for, oh my gosh, for 13 years. We actually started with. A B. Y. O. Model because didn’t exist at the time.
That was kind of my first initiative when I came into this job. Chromebooks weren’t invented yet. I mean, that’s kind of dating myself. It came with kind of the couple years afterwards. So we have just been accustomed to bring your own device. And then when Chromebooks did come around, it made it easier to [00:16:00] manage.
But our teachers do a fantastic job of Walking around the room, making sure kids are all on the same page. We’re looking at some different different software packages now that, you know, can potentially lock kids into the different tabs to make sure they’re they’re not surfing around programs like that are very expensive, though.
We try to cost down to a minimum. So that is a cost is always a factor. Unfortunately.
[00:16:25] Kara: Yeah. Unfortunately, always the consideration and where the funds fall.
I think the like I’m just fascinated by the two to one Concept as well as like the bring your own.
[00:16:38] Caryn: I kind of love it I just like it’s innovative in a way because everyone Was immediately like, we need to put one in everyone’s hands, but you’re absolutely right.
They don’t need to have them all the time and even the ones that do have them all the time, they’re not using them all day. I mean, I get screen reports and they’re on for 15 minutes, you know,
[00:16:58] Amy: and I feel like it was in [00:17:00] Springboro, like we’re lucky because kids can bring their own devices, right? They have, they have the means.
Right. Access. Yeah. But if they. If they don’t, during, we have, did we have a ton of devices that we purchased through with ESSER funds a couple years ago? Right. So if a child doesn’t have a device, we have a loaner program that we just check out through our libraries and they can just check it out all year.
They can take it home. We have hotspots as well. So if a child, you know, needs internet connectivity, same deal. We have a program through our libraries. They can check it out. So I mean, it’s, it’s worked well. We had a over Christmas break actually on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, there’s a pipe that burst at our high school.
Oh geez. Oh yeah, right. Literally right above my daughter’s locker, like boom. Oh, it came down and it flooded the entire like library and everything. It was, it [00:18:00] was a mess and we had to go remote. The week after Christmas. So, you know, we had got two weeks off of Christmas. We had to go remote the week after Christmas and everybody here was nervous.
We’re like, and my colleague who does secondary, my job, they’re like, we’re like, Oh, we’re fine. We got this. And everybody’s like, do they have devices? We’re like, yeah, they’re fine. So I, we have, oh, we have about 2000 kids at our high school and we sat up there and like made sure that kids had devices if they needed to borrow.
We literally checked out 11 devices in two days because kids had either, you know, if they had borrowed from school, they had taken him home over break or they just had their own device at home. So, thankfully, we’re in a situation where kids have their own devices, or if they don’t, they have borrowed them or they came to borrow them.
So, yeah, we’re very lucky here.
Yeah, that’s awesome.
Yeah, so we were able to literally flip on a dime and say, Okay, guys, we’re gonna go remote for a [00:19:00] couple days. We set up shop, we made sure the teachers were okay. Teachers were able to come into their classrooms. Some had to move, but we went remote for a week and it was no big deal.
[00:19:10] Kara: And that really speaks volumes for what you’re doing because.
[00:19:14] Caryn: Yeah.
[00:19:14] Amy: Yeah. We pulled out our own, like our, our COVID plans from a couple of years ago and. Yeah. Pop webs off and we’re like, okay, we can do
[00:19:22] Caryn: this. Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s true though. That’s one thing that came out of COVID.
Yeah. Having had to do that is that now you can be responsive and react in these types of situations. Whereas before, I mean, like when we were in school, if that would have happened, it would have been like, I guess we’re using calamity days for the whole, they’re gone, you know? And now you can still have instruction.
[00:19:45] Amy: Yeah. And it was not a big deal. And because we are a BYO school, you know, you bring your own, it doesn’t matter if they, if they had a, they had to use mom or dad’s Mac book or whatever. Because we’re a Google environment, they get hop on. They’re used to getting onto [00:20:00] their meets. They can use anything they needed to.
And it was very seamless. We had the attendance was fantastic. Those those couple days. I mean, everybody showed up. They did their work. They’re responsible.
[00:20:11] Caryn: I feel like that’s preparing them for those that are going to go on to college or even into the workforce. There’s so many remote jobs.
Now there’s so many college classes that are being held online where you, you know, there’s nobody in the room with you telling you what to do. You take care of your own business. Yeah. Like, you know, I think that’s helping them prepare for that too.
[00:20:33] Amy: Oh, it’s huge. My son is a freshman right now in college and he has two remote classes and it’s just, he has to log in. Some have meeting times, some is it’s just self paced. And by doing things like he did with COVID, he’s fine. And I think our kids, like you said, they, Corinne, they have to be ready and prepared and they are.
[00:20:53] Caryn: Life skills. Yeah. Yeah. I just think back to when I was in high school, we had planners, but [00:21:00] like. I was a hot mess in college. I, nobody gave me a planner. So I didn’t have a planner, you know, I didn’t use a calendar. I don’t even know how I like turn stuff in on time. And that today’s kids, it’s like, they, they, they just.
Maybe have it a little more together than I did. I don’t know, but I would have been in such trouble. I don’t know. I mean, they have access to those calendars and things are scheduled. And I feel like lines of communication are more open and I think it’s great. So I’m glad, I’m glad at least you’re seeing with your son that some of this is translating.
And we’re seeing that those life skills are
[00:21:43] Amy: valuable. You had to worry, like, as an educator, you’re like, am I doing everything right here to prepare 6, 000 kids? And then when I get to see like my own kids going through this and I’m like, okay, like the, all these 6, 000 children, why I am doing something right.
And it is transferring to the college [00:22:00] level because I don’t see a college level. Yeah. Yeah. Kids are going to be ready. And our kids are successful in college when they move on to the next level or when they go into a trade school or things like that. I feel like we have prepared them well with the technology and then everything that we’re doing here in Springboro.
[00:22:18] Caryn: just great. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Thank you so much.
[00:22:22] Amy: Yeah. Yeah, I always tell people I’ve got the best job in the school district. I really do. It’s, it’s, I
[00:22:29] Caryn: think you do. It sounds fun. Yeah. Well, and especially,
[00:22:32] Kara: so you focus when you said your colleagues, so you do. what grades K through
[00:22:38] Amy: I focus on using k5 k5.
[00:22:41] Kara: Okay, and then 6
[00:22:43] Amy: through 12 I was k12. Oh, yeah, it
[00:22:47] Caryn: was feel like I remember that
[00:22:50] Amy: and it was in my wheelhouse Is like six, eight and in really middle school is stretching it with [00:23:00] 6, 000, 6, 200 kids and I think 350 staff members. And I’m like, I threw up the white flag. I’m like, I need help. Like we just, and my colleague taught in secondary for a year.
So it was perfect. So she does secondary, but it is so nice because we can cross over too. Hey, can you go help in second grade and I’ll flip flop and go, you know, help the juniors today. So we have that flexibility, which is nice too. Yeah.
[00:23:29] Caryn: So nice not to be an Island. Yeah. Yeah. To have somebody to collaborate with.
And yeah, it’s ideas off of definitely valuable.
[00:23:40] Amy: Yeah. Or just to figure out Google where I’m just like, okay, I’m stumped. It’s like, let’s work through this together. It’s great. Yeah. That’s
[00:23:49] Caryn: awesome. Sure. I’m a little bit jealous. [00:24:00]
Amy Romes is a a Google Education Trainer and Educational Technologist well versed in utilizing technology and leadership to support a 21st Century Learning Environment. She is experienced in coordinating K-12 schools professional development programs and classroom technology integration as well as with blended learning, online learning management systems, creating district technology plans and building BYOT programs. She has been the Educational Technologist at Springboro Community City Schools since August of 2011.