When those who follow schools see posts on social media about new technology at Ector County ISD — whether it be devices, or Promethean Boards or training, or platforms like Flipgrid — it’s likely thanks to the district’s Techy Tribe.
Some are teachers on campuses and others are with the Digital Learning Department, headed by Lauren Tavarez.
The tribe has just under 30 members and is in its third year.
She oversees six digital learning specialists and the department will be getting four more.
The first year is the Techy Tribe Ambassador Fellowship.
“Teachers that either apply or are asked to be a part of it because of the love that they show for digital tools just naturally in the work that our specialists do at the campuses, so during that first year we really work to build their pedagogy and their understanding of how to effectively use digital tools,” Tavarez said.
She said they use a book called “Shake Up Learning” and they meet once a month.
“It’s all about that learning, but it’s also about building that, literally, that tribe for them of other teachers at other schools that are passionate about digital tools. That’s honestly my favorite part. … Where the whole thing came from was how do we connect teachers that love using technology and teaching with other teachers that are passionate about that,” she added.
The friendships that have been built are the most powerful part of the initiative. “It’s a team,” Tavarez said.
She added that they have connected teachers who have found their “lifelong people.”
“We really are intentional about allowing them time to just talk to each other because it is once a month and that month goes quickly in between our collaborations. But that first year is all about just building that understanding of what effective technology use looks like,” Tavarez said.
Beyond year one, she said, then you become a Techy Tribe Ambassador and the monthly collaborations continue.
Ector County Independent School District’s Director of Digital Learning Lauren Tavarez poses for a photo Thursday afternoon at the ECISD Administration Building. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)
Those who have been an Ambassador for two or three years are provided with a Personalized Professional Learning Pathway. This means they have been given what they call a playlist of learning choices/different professional learning opportunities and they decide what they want to engage in this school year to build their skills as a teacher, Tavarez said in an email.
“Some examples of the learning choices/different professional learning opportunities our #TechyTribe Ambassadors are able to choose from on the playlist are some that require less of a commitment including to become a Level 1 or 2 Certified Educator or to engage in a book study with a small group of others; we do have a few that are more involved including an opportunity to complete 30 hours of coursework with the University of Texas UTeach Foundations of Blended Learning and Advanced Blended Learning courses. Our Ambassadors are able to complete this coursework at their own pace and learn in depth about implementing blended learning in their classrooms,” she wrote.
The newest professional learning opportunity is a partnership with Texas Tech via their Blended Learning/Personalized Learning Graduate Certificate courses.
“We have 13 participants from both our Digital Learning department and #TechyTribe Ambassadors that will engage in coursework beginning this spring to engage …….