As another school year gets underway, we at TCEA continue to be amazed at the amazing educators we know. Each month, we shine the spotlight on one of the extraordinary educators who make up our membership. This month, we’re celebrating Janelle Safford who is an Innovative Learning Design Specialist for grades K-5 in Sulphur Springs ISD. She serves as a mentor, teacher, and valuable touchstone for other educators as they work to seamlessly weave technology into their lessons to improve student success.
Read on to learn a little more about Janelle, including what her job entails, some of her best advice, and how she determines what tech tools to recommend.
A Lifelong Learner
Janelle is a longtime educator. In fact, she’s beginning her 25th year in education this year. She has gone from teaching fourth grade to kindergarten and now on to the new challenge of teaching other educators how they can make the most of their resources. Continued learning and professional development is something that Janelle both preaches and practices. As she explains: “I love sharing my passion for innovative practices that promote and advance student learning. I believe that as an educator, I must embrace the idea of being a lifelong learner myself if I am going to be an example for teachers and students.” Janelle maintains a number of certifications and continues to hone her product expertise as a Google Level 2 certified educator, Seesaw ambassador, Flipgrid ambassador, Peardeck coach, and certified BrainPop educator (CBE).
As part of her lifelong pursuit of learning, Janelle is currently working on a Master of Education in Digital Learning and Leading through Lamar University. “I have learned so much from this program that will benefit both myself and the students and teachers that I serve.”
Eliminating Tech Fears and Embracing Student Voice
Like any educator, Janelle finds great satisfaction in helping others discover something new. She takes pride in helping teachers make their jobs easier by finding the right tools to better engage students. She also wants to raise awareness and understanding about the Technology Applications TEKS and the ISTE standards for students and educators.
Technology in education can be something of a hot button topic for some, and part of Janelle’s job is to help allay fears and frustrations about integration. She also hopes to help teachers see that their role is different but no less important in a blended learning environment that lets students take the reins. “I believe technology is a tool that can transform the way students learn. The internet now provides students with unlimited access to a wealth of information which allows them to take more responsibility for their own learning. This fact redefines the role of the teacher from being the sole source of knowledge to an information facilitator and instructional designer. I love nothing more than to share tools, lessons, ideas, and programs with teachers that can engage student learners and allow them to choose how they best learn and take ownership of their own learning.”
In fact, student ownership of learning is something that is very important to Janelle. She believes strongly that personalized learning can lead to improved student outcomes because students are more engaged when what is being taught is meaningful to them. “I think it is so important that we, as educators, look at school differently. It is no longer enough for students to be cognitively compliant and memorize their way through school. Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn by sitting in classes listening to instructors and spitting out answers.”
The Tools of the Trade
As an advocate for technology to help create these personalized and blended learning opportunities, I’m sure you’re wondering what are Janelle’s go-to resources. Well, it’s not quite that simple. “Honestly, it is impossible for me to choose only one ed tech tool or resource. I work with many different ages, topics, and student needs, so I try to think about which tools, apps, or resources give teachers and students the most bang for their buck. The first question that I often ask teachers when deciding on a tech tool is ‘What is the learning goal and how do you want students to demonstrate learning?’ This question should actually drive the conversation about any learning resource or activity.”
In addition to grounding the acquisition of any new tech in the intended learning goals, Janelle does have some features of tools and apps that she looks for. They should:
- Have multiple uses.
- Allow and encourage student creativity.
- Contain built-in features that allow teachers to monitor student understanding and abilities and provide students with timely, relevant feedback.
Janelle also uses TCEA resources to help her stay current and find new learning solutions. She regularly attends and most recently presented at the Elementary Technology Conference. She is also a member of TEC-SIG and CAMP-SIG. For those attending the 2019 TCEA Convention & Exposition in San Antonio, you will be able to hear Janelle present there as well!
We hope you enjoyed this spotlight on the incredible Janelle Safford. To learn about other innovative educators transforming education, you can read some of our previous member spotlight posts here, here, and here. Do you know a TCEA member who needs to be in the spotlight? You can always email me your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.