Profile :: Carla Wade
Whether working at the classroom or state level, the former science teacher has shown
a passion for teaching educators the most effective ways to integrate technology.
A TRANSFORMING EXPERIENCE Her use of a video microscope during a classroom science
lesson revealed to Wade how technology can awaken students' interest in learning.
CARLA WADE DISCOVERED YEARS AGO how to talk teachers
out of their fears of their own inabilities: You could say she
would make them an argument they couldn't refute. Then the
curriculum instruction manager at the Oregon Museum of
Science and Industry, Wade would have none
of the naysaying she heard from the teachers she hired to
conduct science classes at the museum each summer, who
were sure they didn't know the first thing about chemistry.
"I'd look at them and laugh," she recalls, "and I'd say,
'Excuse me, do you cook at home?'"
She would then ask them for an example of something they
cooked and the recipe they used to make it. Combining sugar,
flour, and butter to make cookies would be their response. "I'd
say, 'So you put these dry ingredients together with some liquid
ingredients, you added heat, and you got something different.
That's chemistry, guys.' They'd say, 'Oh! I can do chemistry.'
"It was fun to help them understand they had the ability to
do something that they had a fear of doing. I like putting
people together and watching them discover, and watching
them smile when they figure something out that they didn't
believe they could do."
Wade, now a technology education specialist at the Oregon
Department of Education, has turned her enjoyment of
dispelling teachers' fears into a career-making passion for
professional development. She sees effective teacher training
as indispensable to the goals of 21st-century education. "You
can put all the computers you want in front of students," she
says, "but if you haven't done the professional development
for teachers, using that technology in a productive and meaningful
way becomes far more difficult."
Much of her work is bent on easing that effort. A key
platform for Wade is the Oregon Ed Tech Professional Development
Cadre, which she helped develop in 2002, two years
after joining the department, as a means to disseminate best
practices for technology integration. The cadre brings in a
range of educators, from curriculum specialists and district
technology coaches to superintendents-- anyone who provides
professional development to teachers. "Because you know
how to use technology," she says, "doesn't mean you know
how to teach other people to use technology."
Participants attend three face-to-face workshops a year,
in addition to a virtual fourth meeting, where they acquire the
knowledge and skills to integrate technology into
instruction. Annual participation has grown from 35
to 40 people when the cadre began to about 100.
The cadre hopes members pass on the strategies
they learn for technology integration to the teachers
in their districts or education service districts, who
will then implement them in the classroom. In one
Oregon district, a cadre member has established
"mini-cadres" based on teachers' interests, including
podcasting, mapping, and Google applications.
"We have teachers who make their lectures available
as video podcasts," Wade says. "Imagine kids viewing
a math teacher's lecture on an iPod."
The educators are not always learning from each
other, Wade says, noting one example when high
school students were invited to the cadre to explain
how to make videos to tell a story or use as an
advocacy tool. The activity allowed the members to
connect with one of the principles of 21st-century
education: the decentralization of the classroom.
"They learned that you as a teacher don't have to be
the one imparting all the knowledge," she says. "You can
sit back and have the kids do some of the driving."
Wade was introduced to 21st-century learning before anyone
had even thought to call it that. In the late 1970s, her graduate
program in parks and recreation at Indiana University-
Bloomington, where she went as an undergraduate as well,
included an emphasis in outdoor education. She would take
elementary school students on walks through the acreage of
the university's outdoor center, Bradford Woods, and have
them write about the pine trees or streams they encountered.
Wade says it was a "hands-on, real-world, teachable-moment
way to learn about doing education."
After completing her graduate work, Wade came to Oregon
on vacation in the spring of 1980. A friend worked for the
Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School in
Portland. In no time, she landed a job with the school and saw
her career take root. "I never left Portland," she says.
Wade entered the classroom full-time in 1992, when she
accepted a science teacher position at Portland's Centennial
Middle School, where she had done some substitute teaching
while gaining her teaching certificate several years earlier. It
was there that Wade began to purposefully integrate technology
into her science instruction. "The exciting thing for
me was to learn how different types of technologies could
augment what you were doing in the classroom," she says.
She recalls one particular experience that showed her the
power of classroom technology to transform a lesson. She
received a grant to obtain a video microscope that displayed
images on a classroom TV monitor. Prior to that, students
peered through microscope eyepieces in an often vain attempt
to focus on a preserved specimen slide of a stained onion
skin. The video microscope allowed students to see much
more, such as watching blood corpuscles coursing through the
capillaries of a live goldfish in real time.
Meanwhile, Wade was seeing something else: technology
being used as an educational pathway. "What I heard was,
'Oh, that's what it's supposed to look like!'" she says. "It
was a revelation for them-- and for me. This was a way to
make science come alive, much better than any textbook."
Wade began turning other teachers on to the use of technology.
Along with two other colleagues, she received training
at Portland's Lewis & Clark College on best practices for
science education. The three of them then turned around and
provided the same training to other teachers in their district,
holding summer workshops for 30 educators. The workshops
focused on hands-on strategies to get kids excited about
learning science, math, and technology. "We had one male
teacher amongst all females one summer, and he was known
to be real hard-nosed," she says. "He expected a lot out of
things. When he told us that it was the best professional
development he'd ever attended, we knew we had struck gold."
"We're really looking at how we do schools differently so that when
the kids walk in the door they're excited to be there because
they're stepping into and building their personal futures."
While still at Centennial, she began doing professional
development for science teachers across Oregon as part of
the state's teacher leader program. Through that work, in
addition to her work for the state's science content and
assessment panel, where she helped create questions for
Oregon's year-end science assessment, Wade got to know the
folks at the state education department, eventually resulting
in her being hired by the department in 2000.
Her influence in the ed tech world extends beyond Oregon.
She has presented at the annual National Title I Conference and at National Association
of State Title I Directors meetings on the connection
between technology and school improvement. She is a
former board member of both the State Educational Technology
Directors Association and the International
Society for Technology in Education. In 2006,
ISTE honored Wade with its Making IT Happen award in recognition
of the impact she has made in the field.
Within the state, she has one foot in Title I and another in
Title II-D. She says that in many states, the two federal programs
are run by separate offices that never talk to each
other. The crossover in her job allows her to share information
and strategies from both camps, particularly in working with
Title I schools to close the achievement gap. "I'm able to help
Title I schools by saying, 'Have you considered that you might
be able to use technology to do this?'" she says. "We have the
research that says the effective integration of technology--
more importantly, the professional development for teachers
that goes along with the technology-- has had an impact on
increasing student academic achievement.
"We're really looking at how we do schools differently, how
we do schools so that when the kids walk in the door they're
excited to be there because they're stepping into and building
their personal futures, and they're engaged in being a part of
learning instead of having learning done to them."
Wade says her efforts to train educators to make that environment
a reality have recently taken a big stride forward. She
got a call from the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, which wants to partner with the
state in providing professional development for leadership.
"That's critical," she says. "That's the next step I want to
take, and they called me to say let's do this together. It's
huge. Just huge."
This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2009 issue of THE Journal.
Joel Shore is a freelance writer based in Southborough, MA.