Get To Know Joan McGettigan

Joan McGettigan and I met online before we ever met in person. When I finally got to meet Joan, it was during a tour of her school, North Broward Preparatory School which is an Apple Distinguished School. I was very impressed with her warmth and knowledge and her school’s emphasis on integration, creation, and pedagogy. Not something you see very often. Check out Joan’s session: MEGA01: FETC Mobile MEGAShare

  1. What is your background in education?

Actually, I began my career while working as a Portfolio Analyst on Wall Street and started volunteering at a tutor at a school in Harlem as the head of our company believed in giving back to the community. Fairly quickly I was watching the clock to see if it was time to leave for tutoring as I fell in love with the opportunity to help students learn. I left Wall Street and received my Masters in Educational Technology at Teachers College Columbia and my Masters in Elementary Education from Tulane. I was an EdTech Director for two years at Trinity Episcopal School in New Orleans and then moved back to Connecticut. I taught math and history for 13 years at Saxe Middle School and loved it. I also received my Ed.D. in Instructional Leadership from Western Connecticut. An opportunity presented itself to return to the filed of Educational Technology at Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton as Academic Technology Director and then I moved to my present home at North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Florida where I am the Director of Educational and Information Technology for PK3 – 12.

  1. What unique message do you bring in your keynotes?

Create, don’t consume. Give your students multiple pathways to demonstrate their learning. Share their work with the world. Make sure that every day, your learning environment is a welcoming place where students can’t wait to get in and never want to leave. Don’t be afraid to fail or ask questions or to have fun.

  1. What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you while presenting?

I was presenting with a colleague at FCIS and the wifi died completely in our room. They had 3 different techs working on it to no avail. I had warned all the teachers to download everything to their computers for their presentations as you can never count on wifi working at a large conference. Did I heed my own advice? No! Our presentation was laden with elements that depended on wifi. Both our phones were dead. The room was packed and people did not leave as we talked our way through the presentation. To this day, I am not sure if we were just that good or if our audience took pity on us.

  1. Is there anything (related to edtech) you expected to see fully embraced in schools by now, but are disappointed to see it has yet to be fully adopted? Briefly explain the barriers.

Allowing high school students to learn the right way to use social media, to communicate properly in this digital world. There is a lot of fear around the use of social media with teens. Usually schools will lock down all social media, especially YouTube. Yet, where do most students learn what they want to learn? YouTube. Schools need to take the time to learn how these tools can be used for the good and transfer that knowledge to our students. We need to teach our students to understand privacy limitations and terms of service.

  1. What do you see happening in Charter or private schools that you think our public schools could learn from?

As you invest in software and hardware, you must invest equally in professional learning for your staff. I see this slowly making its way into public schools.

  1. What is one compelling reason for parents to keep their students in public schools?

Parents need to be invested in our public education as it is the environment that shapes our future. I work in a private school environment but I am very conscious that it is a somewhat artificial environment and I wonder if this handicaps students’ abilities to succeed in more diverse environments.

  1. If you weren’t in education, what field would you be in?

I think about this a lot. I would like to say professional stunt car driver but more likely, if I had not volunteered to tutor at that school in Harlem, would I still be working on Wall Street? Probably and that would be a shame.

  1. What kind of kid were you?

Curious, adventurous and full of wonder. I was fortunate enough to have parents who carted us multiple times across the country in our Ford LTD Country Squire wagon to truly “see” America. These trips were filled my dad re-enacting Civil War Battles, endless games of Ghost and no technology in sight yet I learned more from those trips than any time spent in school.

  1. What are you most excited about right now?

It’s easy to get excited about virtual and augmented reality. The possibilities are endless! However, I am more excited about that students are sharing their work with the world and doors are opening for them. I am astounded by the amazing music, video, stories, art and photography that I see created by students of every background that show up in various Internet channels every day. These students are making an impact on the world at younger and younger ages because they are willing to take a risk and share their work. I know that there are those who worry about our students becoming narcissistic and focusing too much on “likes” but my experience has been that most students are sharing their interests. They are remixing music, creating short videos, writing graphic novels. They are raising awareness of issues. They are artists unafraid of critical feedback. They are digital leaders in a way that is so much more powerful that what we adults do.

  1. Anything else (message, links, etc.) you would like me to know and/or write about.

I wish you could convince all the vendors at FETC to rewrite their Terms of Service in plain English. Your blog post really resonated with me – it drives me crazy that everything is shrouded in legal speak.

11. What challenges (if any) do you routinely experience in the educational technology arena that are specific to being female?

Even though the majority of teachers PreK-12 are female, educational technology is led mostly by men. At EdTech conferences, the keynote speakers are predominantly male (it is the same folks over and over and I like and respect this crew but I wish the light would shine on more women). The tech directors are mostly male. This situation is slowly changing but not fast enough. I’ve come across my share of discrimination in subtle and no so subtle ways from vendors (who don’t know that I have run my share of network cables, repaired computers and set up servers) to other schools’ administrators who seemed surprised to see a woman in charge of technology at my school.