Duerr’s journey at St. Paul wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. When she first arrived at the school, there were ten new Macbooks sitting around unused for a year. The teachers had no experience using the devices and dared not touch them. Duerr helped change this by teaching them how to use the devices. As the teachers became more tech-savvy, so did the students. Another challenge Duerr encountered after taking over St. Paul School was mistrust. Duerr grew up in a different town and many people saw her as an outsider. The community was not very fond of outsider principals because they had a culture of sticking around for a short period then leaving. But Duerr was nothing like the previous short-lived principals. She ended up leading the school onwards to success without any excuses.
Within a year Duerr was able to win the hearts of all the skeptics. She unpacked the unused Macbooks and procured grants to buy more iPads and improve the school’s internet connectivity. Shortly after, Duerr hired Sabra Eaton to help teach computer skills. At the time, Sabra Eaton was a computer teacher in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Her new job at St. paul involved teaching students how to use software such as photoshop. Duerr also tasked Eaton with helping teachers with technology in the classroom.
Hiring Eaton proved to be a wonderful decision. Later in the year, the iPads arrived and Eaton and Duerr installed a couple of teaching applications (not unlike those used in long-term care capacities). They conducted a one-day tutorial on how to use the new devices and allowed the teachers to take the iPads home all summer, together with iTunes Gift Cards for installing more apps. They encouraged the teachers to play with the gadgets whether for personal or professional use.
The following year, Duerr asked the teachers to apply technology in the classroom more often, offering herself and Eaton as ready resources. Duerr and Eaton would help the teachers learn something new, no matter how small as often as they could. If the teachers were struggling with the devices or failed to understand a concept, Duerr and Eaton would encourage them and help in any way they could.
In the following 2 years, through economizing and acquiring more grants, St. Paul increased their broadband and acquired more devices including Nooks, Chromebooks, and Netbooks for reading. Teachers and students used tools like Google Docs for real-time editing and collaboration, as well as other apps such as Kahoot for developing game-based quizzes, Google Classroom for creating and reviewing assignments, and Newsela for scheduling current-events classes.
To foster a technology culture, Duerr encouraged the teachers to discuss technology glitches and triumphs during every staff meeting. If any technological issues came up that Duerr or Eaton couldn’t solve came up, Duerr would reach out to tech-savvy educators on Twitter for help.
The same combination of technology, expectations, and trust became successful with the students. For example, every week students were required to review an educational app and learn more about it. The suggestions included a virtual frog dissection application, Evernote as a project planner, and Edmondo for class forums.