Fuse RI Alumni Tour Spotlight: Jennifer Simoneau
This year, Highlander Institute is staying connected with our Cohort 1 Fuse Fellows through a Fuse RI Alumni Tour. Every few weeks, we visit 3-4 Fuse Alumni around the state to catch up with them in their current roles. Follow the hashtag #FuseRIAlumniTour for more updates!
Jennifer Simoneau is a Library Media Specialist at Ponaganset Middle School in Glocester, RI.
When you enter Ponaganset Middle School, the large glass windows of the library beckon you across the lobby. Beyond the typical circulation desk and bookshelves, there’s a new makerspace in the works, complete with green screen and tripod, as well as a line of students eager to get troubleshooting advice as they build their creations. At the center of the activity, you’ll find Jen Simoneau, an intrepid educator who has worn many hats in her role as Library Media Specialist. From tech support to professional development facilitator, Jen is a go-to resource for many teachers in the building and throughout the district. This year, as the middle school works to support the growth of lighthouse classrooms, Jen notes that teachers are really starting to make changes in their practice to embrace blended learning.
This month alone, she will be:
- leading a personalized learning share-out session with early adopter teachers to establish the “why” for this work and discuss early successes and new suggestions
- working 1-on-1 with teachers to discuss how to enhance their upcoming unit and lesson plans with technology
- supporting students as they choose how to demonstrate mastery of learning objectives with options like stop motion animation, slide deck presentations, green screen videos, and thinglink images
In addition, Jen teaches 2 classes a day, focusing on library and digital literacy to 6th graders. She aims to build up good workflows and work habits in her students, but finds that there is also a balance between her responsibilities as a librarian – “I still get really excited when teachers and kids ask me about finding good books!”
When we met with Jen in early January, she was just about to launch a “Tinker Tuesdays” series at the school in collaboration with the computer teacher. Each week, students are invited to the library to experiment with tech tools and coding programs. In 2017 so far, students have explored littleBits electronics, Stop Motion Pro, and DoInk Animation, with plans to try out LED origami in the near future.
Jen also continues to push her own development as an educator by participating as a Media Smart Libraries cohort member. With all of these exciting initiatives on her plate, it’s no wonder she was our choice for the Fuse RI Igniter Award in 2015!
According to Jen, the traditional public school setting sometimes requires a creative mindset when it comes to blended learning. She shared that digital tools, internet access, and the flipped classroom model have really helped make “learning in any place” a reality for Ponaganset middle schoolers. However, time and pace can still be tough. For example, sometimes she’ll be working with a highly engaged small group of students in the library on a performance task like a green screen video. Then the bell rings and students have to wrap up and move to their next class regardless of the status of their work product. Trends like these reinforce that “historical structures of public school will be slower to evolve” to complement innovative teaching practices.
However, for Jen, the support of her principal Ms. Marcotte and assistant principal Mr. Porrazzo, as well as the growth mindsets amongst teachers she works with are early signs that her guidance on blended learning is having an impact. Her main goal is to be leveraged as a thought partner to bridge research, content, and great teaching practices.
Life After Fuse
In talking with Jen about her time as a Cohort 1 Fuse Fellow, she shared that “Fuse made the connection between pedagogy and the tools themselves (not just the how-to) so much stronger for me. My experience with Fuse has helped me to be an informed partner on district and building level technology initiatives. We’ve got a great team that plans and supports this work in our building and there is still so much work to be done. Plans are in the works to expand support and training for students and parents before the school year starts. Faculty continue to look to the tech team to share examples of new tools and navigate the rough patches. The relationships and connections with the Fuse/Highlander community will continue to be a valuable support and resource for me as I try to keep one step ahead!”
Written By: Maeve Murray