Being ok with not being the Expert

Digital Integration Specialist (DIS) – that’s my official title, but it’s always felt intimidating to me.  “Specialist” somehow implies a level of expertise I don’t always feel I have.  I do have experience and I love to learn, so I guess that’s made me a “specialist” of sorts.  Sometime as the DIS, I feel like I have to have all the answers or know how to find them.  But sometimes that’s just not the case.

Last month, a teacher new to our school, @MsDeeegar, scheduled me to work with her and her chemistry classes on a breakout activity.  I’ll admit at first I was a little nervous. I didn’t really know anything about breakout edu or breakout boxes.  I’ve seen them at conferences and seen posts on twitter, but I just didn’t get it.  What do you actually do?  What do the students do? How does it work?

So, I did what most learners these days do – I searched online.  I went to and read some.  But it was when I watched videos of teachers and students in action that I started to understand what it was all about.

Thankfully for me the chemistry teacher, Kat Degar, did all the work for this one, and I was just there to support.  I did the legwork of borrowing the necessary boxes from another school in our district (thanks, @ImsSpedTechno !)and helped manage the papers and locks as needed during and between classes.  Using the breakout boxes does take quite a bit of prep work and setup.

Watching the students solve the chemistry problems and get into the boxes helped me see the “soft skills” the students learn by doing breakouts such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration and perseverance.  These skills are so important!  By wrapping her chemistry test review into a breakout edu project, Ms Degar expanded what students were learning.  She was focused on the standards and content, but also realized the value of a high level of engagement and the importance of problem solving.

I’m grateful that Ms Degar reached out to me and was willing to bring me in to her classroom when it was clear I didn’t know what I was doing.  This was a chance for me to assist and learn while doing.  I’m now working on getting our own breakout boxes and sharing this with other teachers.

Sometimes it’s fine not to be the expert!


One thought on “Being ok with not being the Expert

  1. Annmarie Clasky November 1, 2017 / 5:32 pm

    Susan, I really enjoyed this blog post about not having to be the expert all the time! This topic came up informally at the last conference I was at a few weeks ago, how the more proficient and comfortable teachers become with integrating technology, the more “teacher experts” will be a part of the school landscape, thus creating a pool of experts/experience rather than just a solitary specialist! Sometimes just modeling and sharing as you are doing in this post, is so powerful! There are no magic ‘tech’ pills, its just a willingness to do a little investigating now and then! Thank you for sharing this.


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