My name is Tyler Gehrking and integrating technology into life has always been a passion of mine and eventually it bled into my teaching. For six years I was the only Economics teacher at Willmar High School and I was always pushing our school to adopt more technology. Eventually we started with carts of iPads that were available for teachers to checkout temporarily. This was wonderful, but it just wasn't enough. We needed a 1:1 model if we were truly going to give our students the chance to take control of their educations. In 2011 Lyle Hovland, (perhaps the greatest teacher I have ever met) Dave Baker (local businessman), Rob Anderson (our visionary principal) and I decided to reach out to the community for the funding we would need to make a 1:1 program possible. After bringing on Mike and Sheila Tolbert, Ken Warner, and many others we made it happen. The iCardinal project eventually raised $350,000 in six months. So, we had the devices, now what. Since Lyle and I spearheaded this initiative, the district basically said, 'Ok, you got the iPads here. Make it work.' After A LOT of learning and staff development, Willmar High School now has a successful and sustainable 1:1 iPad program that has since upgraded devices and expanded into Willmar Middle School. After the success of the iCardinal Project and Willmar High School's 1:1 program Lyle and I worked with almost a dozen districts over the next two years. In 2014 I founded EDGEtech just three months into a new position as
Willmar High School's Technology Integrationist. Tasked with helping all teachers integrate technology into their lessons, I realized that I couldn't be everything to everyone. How was I supposed to help our physics teacher, our calculus teacher, and our special education teachers all at the same time? The fact became clear that I couldn't, or at least I couldn't do it very well. The best person to help our physics teacher was another physics teacher. The same was true for every content area. I needed to connect these people because their collective talent, content knowledge, and skill would undoubtedly come up with ideas far more fruitful than any I could develop spending hours searching the web. The challenge, obviously, is creating an environment in which these professionals would have the time, collaboration, and inspiration they needed to drive education forward. With every minute of the school day already assigned, it became clear that summer break was the opportunity for time that we needed to take advantage of. So I tasked myself with building a staff development infrastructure that encouraged collaboration, innovation, and creation using summer break to leverage our talents. After speaking with dozens of teachers, administrators, and businesspeople the final product took shape. We now have developed a model that accomplishes our goals of collaboration, inspiration and time. In addition, EDGEtech has partnered with Minnesota State University to give teachers FREE graduate credits as part of the program. We are now giving teachers the ability to learn, develop professional networks, and move their careers forward. Oh by the way, teachers will make thousands more on top of their contracts by staying in the classroom full time. Called The Network, it is the most comprehensive staff development infrastructure available. It doesn't REQUIRE anything more of teachers. It offers OPPORTUNITY'S to learn, lead, collaborate, and be well compensated. The Network is what I wish I had when I was a full time classroom teacher. Now we need to encourage schools to look at staff development differently. We don't need to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on speakers, consultants, and canned curriculum. Let's invest a tiny fraction of that in our current talent and see what amazing things they develop.