Seth Mitchell, one of RSU 2’s technology integrators, has been helping teachers navigate the new way of educating students as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Seth Mitchell

While classrooms are empty, educators across the state are working hard to reach their students at home.

Lydia Leimbach Photo courtesy of Lydia Leimbach

Supporting that effort in Hallowell-based Regional School Unit 2: Lydia Leimbach, Seth Mitchell and Dan Tompkins. They are the dictrict’s technology integrators.

RSU 2 Superintendent Mary Paine said the trio of technology integrators has adapted to the needs of teachers during the coronavirus pandemic, as learning abruptly shifted away from the typical classroom model.

“The need is so high,” Paine said. “Teachers are working so hard to make distance education a success. They need help on their own terms, and that is what our integrators do best.”

The technology integrators say their job is less about troubleshooting technology and more about teaching — both students and teachers — with a goal of meeting immediate needs.

Leimbach, who works at Hall-Dale Middle and High schools, said she and her colleagues sprang into action “almost overnight” after schools were closed, to put together resources and training for teachers.

“There’s a lot that goes into designing online learning that’s effective and our teachers had to figure it out quickly,” Leimbach said.

“We tried to think about what teachers and students needed right now, as opposed to what would be nice to do in the future.”

Dan Tompkins Photo courtesy of Dan Tompkins

John Armentrout, the district’s information technology director, said the district “truly would not have been able to meet the demands of our current environment without their support.”

“They’ve had to meet many varied demands and quickly deepen their own knowledge in areas of distance learning that are new to many of our staff and learners,” Armentrout said.”

“They have done amazing work through it all, without flinching through this quickly shifting landscape we find ourselves in.”

Tompkins, who works at Richmond schools, said there have been large strides with teachers from all grade levels. He said some teachers have relied little on the integrators, opting to send paper assignments home for students, while others have needed help with digital tools.

Tompkins said the most-profound responses have been from elementary school teachers, noting some have been eager to make videos of themselves reading books for their students to watch.

“The better prepared and supported they are will ultimately have a direct impact on students,” Tompkins said. “I’m sure what’s learned and used now will carry on long after the community health concerns of today are lessened or gone altogether.”

Seth Mitchell Photo courtesy of Seth Mitchell

Mitchell, who works at Monmouth schools, said his 10-hour workday features a steady stream of emails from students and teachers.

Along with doing a fair amount of troubleshooting, he said he spends time creating tutorials and walkthroughs for teachers, to help them with the new processes.

“Many teachers are making great strides in developing their tech know-how, so it is exciting to help them grow quickly to meet the needs of their kids,” Mitchell said.

“I try to be as responsive as possible to their questions so their work can continue unhindered.”

Leimbach said success for technology integrators hinges on building trust with peers and testing new tools rigorously before handing them off to teachers.

“We (don’t want to waste) their time on things that either aren’t sound teaching practices or will cause more work than they are worth,” she said.

“Truthfully, we are not smarter than anyone else. We’re just really good at finding answers on Google.”

Leimbach, who is set to retire at the end of the school year, said given the changes that are likely when everyone returns to the classroom, technology integrators must continue to adapt to the needs of teachers.

“It will be a time to take stock of what teachers will need,” she said, “and not come in with a preconceived plan of how things should be.”

Mitchell, who also coaches the robotics teams at the middle and high schools, said he is eager to resume working with those students when schools reopen.

Our seasons ended abruptly with the school closures,” he said, “so it will be satisfying to see each other in person and give the kids the opportunity to get back to the hands-on work they find so engaging.”

Tompkins said he planned to clean out his office upon his return, but also wanted to help students get back into their usual routines when schools reopen.

“Even before that I, as I’m sure many others will do as well, (plan) to heartily welcome and comfort students,” he said.

“Students are accustomed to routine, and that has been disrupted in a phenomenally significant way for a relatively long period of time.”

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