With feet planted firmly in the 21st century, two McKinney ISD educators have been named among the most outstanding in Texas by Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) for their innovative integration of technology and education.

At the TCEA 2013 Annual Conference in Austin last week, McGowen Elementary’s Melanie Burford, accepted the award for TCEA 2013 Texas Library Media Specialist of the Year, and Joli Barker, a second grade teacher at Slaughter Elementary, was named TCEA 2013 Texas Classroom Teacher of the Year.

TCEA is a member-based organization devoted to the use of technology in education with a primary focus on integrating technology into the PreK-12 environment and providing members with state-of-the-art information. Each year, the organization chooses the top Texas educator in each of nine categories and presents each winner with a plaque and a prize of $1,000.

Both Burford and Barker felt honored to be chosen this year.

“I was thrilled to receive this award from TCEA,” said Burford. “I was honored to just be nominated, but to be a finalist and then to receive the award, was more than I could imagine. I am so blessed to be a media specialist in MISD – I work with some very talented, hard-working people.”

Barker said, “I am humbled to have even been nominated. It is such an honor to have the hard work that my kids put in everyday be recognized and celebrated in this way. TCEA is an incredibly supportive organization which encourages technology integration as an authentic thread that runs throughout the fabric of the classroom. I am proud of my students and proud to be this year's recipient,” she said.


In 2011, Barker took classroom projects to a new level with “XBOX360: The iConnect Project” through which she transformed her classroom into a “living video game” -- complete with story lines, QR codes, augmented reality codes and avatars -- to challenge her students to solve S.T.E.M.  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related scenarios.

“Through the overlying iConnect concept,” she said, “we connected with authors and discussed the joy of the writing process, the deeper meanings and effects of good literature, and explored a variety of genres and writing styles. We also connected with classes across the world in a literary fair that brought an engagement in reading and understanding text that also taught an appreciation for new cultures and ideas.”

The project grabbed the attention of the Microsoft Partners in Learning U.S. Forum who selected it and 15 other projects from across the country to represent the U.S. at the Microsoft Global Forum last November.

In 2012, Barker retooled the project and dubbed it “The Game Changers,” guiding her students in the creation of “global digital learning games that can be used to enhance learning for others around the world.” Furthermore, Barker’s 2nd graders collaborate with classes around the U.S. and the world in a writing project called “Write Our World” in which collaborative story writing addresses social concerns such as bullying.

At McGowen Elementary, Burford sees technology as a normal part of academic life.

“The students and staff at McGowen are utilizing technology on a daily basis,” she said. “We are using mobile technology more and more each day! Our students use Edmodo to discuss literature and collaborate with one another, and they use productivity apps on the iPads to create their own learning and complete their own projects. Students are highly motivated by technology, so I work hard to integrate technology into the curriculum and make their learning more challenging and collaborative, but still fun!”

“The students at McGowen use technology to enrich their learning – by collaborating, creating and problem solving.”

Just like the educators who guide them.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Specialist, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.


About McKinney ISD

One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,000 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, one alternative school and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at mckinneyisd.net.