Jay Sorensen Saves Time By Having Students Do The Work

Jay Sorensen took some time out of his day to chat with me about all the exciting things happening at Oxnard Union High School District. In our short chat we cover a lot of ground including life as an Ed Tech Coordinator, Sonny Magana’s T3 framework, how to save time by getting students to do the work, and innovative educators you should add to your Twitter PLN.

Be sure to checkout our follow up conversation on Passion Projects at OUHSD!

Full Transcript

DAMON: Hey, everyone it’s Damon from Alludo. And I am excited to have Jay Sorensen to chat with us today. Jay is Ed Tech Coordinator with the Oxnard School District, Oxnard High School District. 

Jay Welcome. Excited to talk to you.

JAY: Thank you very much. I'm excited to be here.

DAMON: Awesome. The reason that I'm doing this, and we just started doing this,  so still working out the kinks and excited to be doing it,  is that I talk to educators all the time  with respect to Alludo and otherwise. And there's just a lot of really great things that are happening in education. And I want to get that message out there to the extent that we can. And I just want to share this with people, because I think it's ridiculously valuable 

So, Jay, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and what your role is with Oxnard and how you got there?

JAY: All right. Well, as you mentioned, I'm the Ed Tech Coordinator and it's the Oxnard Union High School District.

DAMON: Thank you.

JAY: And, so I started off as elementary school teacher. Taught fourth grade, fifth grade, mostly fourth grade for about nine years, moved to the middle school where I taught one year of computers.

Right around that time, I was getting my master's in school counseling, and I was ready for sort of a career shift in education.

But it was at a time where they were cutting counseling jobs, and there just wasn't a whole lot available. And it just so happened at that same time when I was teaching fourth grade, I was part of a technology grant, which got me eight desktop computers that sat in the back of my classroom, and  I start experimenting with some of the tech and then at the same time, got to go to my very first CUE conference, which is completely blew me away and open my eyes, to all the possibilities that technology provided and got me really excited about doing tech with students. And so I moved to the middle school where I taught one year of a computer class, and then I had spent a couple of years as a tech TOSA in the K8 school district,  and then I made the jump to the the high school district, on so the last, is my third year as the Tech coordinator in OUHSD.

DAMON:  How did you find the transition from being a Classroom teacher into being a TOSA Rio?

JAY: It was challenging in a sense that I definitely missed being in the classroom. It's a shift from working with students to adults.

It's different, although in many ways the same. And in many cases, teachers are the worst students and do everything that they get upset about their kids for doing. But I then found it really good because, you know, having impact on teachers that then you see, is having an impact in the classroom. You know, you're still reaching students and even more than you're able to before.

DAMON: So obviously the follow up to that is being a TOSA to being Ed tech coordinator.  How did you find that transition?

JAY: I think there is no transition in the position itself. There's a lot of similarities in the two. The bigger transition is from going from the K8 to the high school. You know, it was a transition for me, moving from my nine years of elementary to the middle school, I was always afraid of those scary middle schoolers and then moving to the high school, afraid of those scary high schoolers.

So that's been the biggest shift I guess it's just getting used to. High school is definitely a different beasts. There's different things you need to think about with students being eligible and NCAA and all these different things,  and A through G requirements and stuff. I just never had to think about before.

But the position I have is still mainly the same. I have a lot of freedom, working with teachers and doing tech training and doing a lot of the same things that I was doing as a TOSA. 

DAMON: That's awesome. So you've been involved in technology and you've gone through, you've risen up through the ranks, so to speak. What's exciting you about your position? What's exciting about technology or anything else that you're doing as a tech coordinator?

JAY: I think what's exciting about my position as I mentioned initially, I missed the students. I miss being in the classroom. I still try and find my way in there as much as possible. 

But what's really exciting, I've had this happen to me a few times recently is, you know, going into classrooms or seeing things  through social media that teachers are doing, that are directly things that I've done with them that they're now doing with students. So that the work I'm doing is still having impact on student learning. That part's exciting.

I think what's exciting about now in education, is it feels like a very different time than when I started teaching. There's a lot more space for innovation and teachers to sort of try and do things.

I was that underperforming school when I started. That was at a point where the  state is coming in and telling you what you can and can't do. And you have to teach this thing from this book at this time. 

And to the point now where there's a lot more room to experiment and try new things. And with all this tech, I do kind of feel like at the time where I left and became a TOSA was where a lot of this was really blowing up.

And so I sort of feel like I've missed some of that in the classroom. But getting to see teachers doing those things that I'm  talking about and training them on is rewarding. 

DAMON: As this freedom has opened up, is there any kind of not so much downside,  but what are some of the things you have to account for as you've had that more? That increased freedom or you see teachers having more freedom.

JAY: Yeah. I mean, I guess that freedom can go too far to the extent that, they are offrrack, can spend a lot of time trying all these different tools, and there's just sort of too much to choose from.

So I think giving teachers the right amount, in doing that sort of, in a strategic, systematic way, so that, you know, give him a little bit, they experiment and then work with those teachers that are ready for the next step but not letting teachers get overwhelmed because that can definitely happen with a lot of them. 

DAMON: Is one of the components of that is like initiative overload? Where teachers, they're just getting another item to worry about. Or is it something else? 

JAY: Yeah, I mean that can definitely happen. And so, you know, definitely being conscious into that and being aware to avoid that,  I think giving them sort of a few things at a time give them time to feel that out. Experiment, play with that.

Decide where you're going to go from there. Is it something you're going to stick with, is something you're not. And then kind of get the feel for are they ready for the next new thing 

DAMON: From your position now at the district level. How can you help not have that initiative overload? What are some of things that you could do?

JAY: I think

DAMON: It's a tough question. I'll give you a couple seconds to think about it.

JAY: I also was going to go to an Alludo answer, but. I think, so one way that we do it in our district is we have something called a technology advisory committee. So this is a committee made up of  teachers,  IT folks, everyone's invited. And administrators were trying get a little bit of everyone to show up, but it's where we really give the district and the teachers a voice so that if there was that feeling of “were overwhelmed”, “We have too many initiatives” that would definitely come out in one of our TAC meetings.

But we're also, I have a pilot budget, where we're able to experiment with new tech tools every year and that comes straight from the teachers and anybody else that, at those TAC meetings that says, “Hey, we're really interested in this new product” or “we've tried this out and we want to try the paid version of that” So we really through the TAC meeting, let teachers have that voice.

DAMON: That's awesome. That's a good way to get the teacher voice in there. That's fantastic. So speaking of the upcoming year and budgets, and that sort, are you walking into planning for 2019-2020, what do you guys do in your district, that's getting excited.

JAY: Our big thing that's taking up a lot of our time and effort is we're finally making the move towards going one to one,  district wide and the way we're doing that is we're doing clover high schools this upcoming year.  So a lot of our PD Time is being spent on that and preparing teachers and making sure they're ready for these devices to show up in student's hands next school year.

We are really trying to take advantage of this opportunity. I've been given several days to spend doing PD with every teacher from the two sites that are going one on one, which is an awesome opportunity.  

And we want to make sure that the training they're getting is is more than just, you know, here's how to use a chromebook, here's how to use Google docs and these types of things.

We're really trying to make it, you know, here's an opportunity to really make a shift. The message that we keep giving them is, if we just give you these devices and students have these devices, and you're doing the same thing that you've been doing before, but digitally, there's really gonna be no change.

So this is a real opportunity to sort of look at what you're doing and here are new opportunities that the tech provides and here's a chance to really make a pedagogical shift that can have a huge impact on what students are doing

DAMON: That's awesome, yeah, just using devices as a replacement is going to have limited benefit.  What's your advice to districts that are doing something similar and how they should be thinking about making that pedagogical shift. What are some of the things that you're doing to make sure that happens.

JAY: So, one thing I'll say is I'm a big fan of Sonny Magana’s T3 Framework. So he has,  Sonny Magana wrote book a Disruptive Classroom Technologies. But we're sort of using his framework in the background of everything we're doing and all the training we're doing.  

So those that aren't familiar, The T3 framework  is three levels of tech integration or tech innovation in the classroom. And so the T1 level,  it's just the translational where students are just using the tech to consume information and using it for automation, which is great. There's nothing wrong with that. But using websites like Khan Academy or whatever could be a great and useful tool, or using something like quizzes that does the grading for me as a teacher is awesome, but that's not the ultimate goal and what we can do with technology

T2 is the transformational, a stage where students are then producing things. We're getting the students creating, and they're contributing to the learning of the classroom. That's a huge shift, and, a lot of us, aren't doing that. And so that's sort of the next stage of the training that we're doing.

And then the T3 level is where students are doing inquiry design and social entrepreneurship, and that's where you know they're making these, doing these projects and making real world connections and that's really sort of the ultimate goal of where we can go with technology. So it's so much more than just using these cool websites, which again, there's nothing wrong with those.

And we want teachers to use those, but just knowing, throwing them on this website or using this cool fun app isn't the end game

DAMON: Right. That's awesome, that kind of leads it, we were talking a little bit off camera before we met about time saving tips in that sort of thing. I think that's a perfect segue way into your timesaving tip.

JAY: Yes So I didn’t have great app or website that popped into my mind when Damon asked that. But my simple answer was, make the kids do it. So that's often a default that I say when you know a teacher reaches out to me and says, “Hey, we should have this system in place for the students”. “Can we get a form or a flyer or something for this activity that's happening at school”,  And my first thought is, Let's have the kids do it.  So the kids try.

It doesn't work for everything I know. But there are times where you know we can give kids that empower the kids and give them that opportunity to create something or come up with ideas, and they may come up with an awesome idea that you end up using and something you wouldn't have thought of, or they may not, which is okay, too.

DAMON: That is awesome. Okay, so you mentioned Sonny Magana. Are there any other folks out there that you think that people should be  reaching out to and having joined their PLN or joining other PLN's that sort of thing? Folks on Twitter, anyone at your district maybe?

JAY: Yeah, so we've been promoting Twitter a lot in my district and got a whole bunch of teachers on, and they got their awesome PLNS up going on just within our district, which is really cool, and there's so many to mention and I hate to  single one out.

But I think I will mention Emily Guthrie, is an English teacher in our district. She just moved to our brand new Oxnard Middle College High School, which is a high school on a local Oxnard college campus where the two classes of freshman that are taking well, of course, is from our teachers that teach there and online courses in college courses. All the same time.  

So Emily Guthrie, who is @MsEmilyGuthrie, is an awesome teacher that's always willing to try new things and  whether it's tech or she does tons of awesome technology things or not. She's got her students working on awesome project.

Their final was where they created a Google form and then created these infographics based on results that they got She's working with the T2 level of things, having students, to mastery based, self grading. So the kids are keeping track of their mastery levels as they work through various standards that she's identified. So she's an awesome one for people. 

DAMON: That's awesome, shoutout to Emily. And we'll definitely have her Twitter handle in the notes for this as well. So that's awesome. So speaking of Twitter, I know you are on Twitter, quite a bit. I'm wondering how are you speaking anywhere? Just looking to see how people can see you and maybe follow you on Twitter. So first, just start with. I know you do quite a bit of speaking,  quite a bit of work with CUE that sort of thing. Where can I see you next?

JAY: My two big ones coming up will be speaking at spring CUE in Palm Springs in March. I will be doing a 2-hour workshop on the QFT. Something that's not not a tech thing, per se. But I've been pushing a lot in my district and beyond its the Question Formulation Technique from the Right Question Institute.

I mentioned inquiry design is in the T3 level, which I am not sure I said what T stood for in T3 which is transcendent.

But it's a great first step for inquiry its just getting students to ask better questions, and then what you do with those questions could lead to all kinds of things. And again, that could be Tech focused or not, but I'll be doing a two hour workshop on the QFT and then I will be actually presenting with Sonny Magana at ISTE in Philadelphia. 

He's been really excited about the momentum we've got with the T3 Framework in Oxnard, and so we're gonna be sharing some of the success and stories that we have. So to find me on Twitter, actually, both Twitter and Instagram. I am  @MrSorensen805.

And something I have actually going on, on Twitter that I'm really excited about right now is this year I started a student voice chat in my district. So it's #OUSTUVOICE.

And so it's a bi weekly thing that I'm doing and we've had probably 8 chats or so by now.  So we have a different topic every time. I started trying to do it outside of school. And just to get momentum, my headteachers reach out and say, “Hey, we're willing to help promote this and facilitate in the beginning”

So, I try doing it during the school day. So we do it at 9am. Every other Tuesday. And some teachers are having their students do it right there in class and some aren’t, which is fine, but just asking them to help promote it and try and get more, more and more voices heard with. 

Done it on topics from school culture, technology, homework. We had one on election days, we talked about some, what types of topics do students want to hear, politicians talking about?

Just yesterday we did one on learning spaces. So hearing students input on what they think of their campus and the types of spaces they have available to them and what they would like their classrooms to look like. So it's really powerful to hear, you know, coming from our actual students.

And then, but I'm sort of still thinking out is what is the best way that I then bring that message to the powers that be in the district,  because I want the voices to be beyond just me, facilitating a chat and some teachers get on Twitter. But I want their voices to really actually be heard by  people at the top of the district.  

DAMON:  That's  fantastic.  it's awesome. Bringing kids into the technology and students and all of those stuff  that's crazy.

JAY: And one of the coolest things real quickly is that a lot of the support that I've got happen to be from some ELD teachers, so I have a bunch of like newcomers. And, you know, students that aren't always comfortable sharing, having their voice heard, whether they're speaking publicly, but they're participating in this chat online and having their voices heard, which is really cool,

DAMON: That's awesome. Yeah, so that's 9 o'clock every other Tuesday?

JAY: Every other Tuesday.

DAMON: So, yeah, the next is it an hour long, or is it all day?

JAY: So good question. So I pose the questions like a normal Twitter chat, you know, every, however many minutes, so we’re going to do four questions. So I start at nine and it's done before ten with the live portion of it.

But then I'm going back and checking and responding so some teacher may not have a second period class or they may only do it with a certain class that they have. That's fifth period. They can go on respond any time. They just have to search the hashtag and look for that, the Q1,  Q2 to find the question.

And then I'm trying to go back and respond as many as I can. The good problem I have is there's so many it's hard for me to respond to all of them, but I try and ask follow up questions and I'm trying to get them to take the next step of them interacting with each other. Right now, it's mostly me and them communicating, but I'd love for them to reply to each other a little bit more and share their ideas with each other across the district. 

DAMON: That's awesome. I hope that somebody will see this and that they will engage with you on that be it a teacher or other students. That is awesome. Well,  what a perfect place to put a button in it and end it. Jay this was fantastic. Thank you for sharing your time. I know as a tech coordinator, you’re busy guy and that sort of thing, so I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

JAY: Yeah. Thank you. It was a lot of fun.


Sonny Magana’s T3 Framework


Disruptive Classroom Technologies by Sonny Magana


Question Formulation Technique by the Right Question Institute



Dr. Sonny Magana


Emily Guthrie


Jay Sorensen