Ali Worsham believes a classroom can have the best technology, but it is useless without a teacher who knows how to use it.
That mindset and her work to help teachers integrate technology into Longview ISD classrooms earned her the Instructional Technology Specialist of the Year award this past week from Texas Computer Education Association.
TCEA is a nonprofit organization of educators working to improve learning with technology, according to its website.
As an instructional technology specialist, Worsham said she works with teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum. She primarily works with teachers at Forest Park Middle School and Foster Middle School.
Her coworker, IT Specialist Emily Young, nominated her for the award.
“Ali is a visionary,” Young said in a written statement. “She brings cohesiveness and inspiration to our team and our district. Her strategic implementation, expert organizational skills and intensely focused passion have influenced innovation and risk-taking throughout Longview ISD.”
While Worsham was honored to receive the award, she said having the support of her team and their trust helped her with the projects that set her apart from other finalists.
Part of that work is bringing zSpace — augmented and virtual reality technology — to classrooms at Forest Park and other schools in the district.
She also helped with integrating Chromebooks, Google-brand laptops, into classrooms at Forest Park in August 2018.
But what Worsham said she really thinks set her apart is her creation of Tech Fest, which happened in August.
Tech Fest was a three-day professional development event, Worsham said. There was a day for elementary teachers, middle school teachers and high school teachers in the district. There were about 40 sessions the teachers could choose from.
“It was the first time that our teachers in the district had a choice in their training for technology integration,” she said. “With all of the increased technology that our district has gotten, I really felt like our training model needed to shift in order to support teachers with all that technology.”
Worsham said she noticed a culture shift in the district after Tech Fest.
“From that, there was just such a positive energy that I don’t feel like we’ve seen at the beginning of the year,” she said. “From August on, they were excited for technology. They had ideas to increase their engagement in class and ways to really get students creating and presenting those products.”
Technology has a major impact on student learning, she said. Especially since the students now all have grown up with technology as part of their everyday life.
“If we’re not building that into their classroom experience, and we’re not providing that 21st century skill, then we’re really missing the mark on educating today’s learners,” Worsham said. “I think you can have a really great lesson without technology, but I think to go every single day of the year without that component is doing our kids a disservice; because the world that we live in today, it’s just so integrated. If you’re not integrating it into their education as well, we’re not preparing our kids for the future.”