Tricia Louis is the Technology Integration Professional at Richland School District in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Through true devotion and enthusiasm for what she does, she’s garnered a following of over 4000 people on Twitter (@talouis), where she is regularly referred to as a #TechGoddess. You’ve only got to take a quick glance at her Twitter profile to see why. It’s filled to the brim with awesome tech news and tips, including Tricia’s Tech Tuesday Tidbits — her weekly newsletter for teachers looking to infuse their classrooms with EdTech, and she’s always on hand to offer insightful advice or to assist in resolving a tech-related issue.
Tricia is unquestionably universally admired throughout the online educational community, so I was very excited when I got the opportunity to chat with her. Read on to learn about her childhood desire to be a teacher, her current role within the district and how she landed it, her approach to teaching children about technology, and more!
Approach to education
Tricia loves to work with teachers to incorporate new technology into their classrooms, often using it to augment their pre-existing material. Outlining her approach to this, Tricia explains to me how “I work with teachers to take something that they’re already teaching and put a spin on it using new technology”. This way, the students learn the same content they always would have, but they also get a chance to learn about new technology. Tricia tells me that getting the students comfortable with technology is massively important because it opens up their minds and exposes them to things that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience.
Prior to the pandemic, she could regularly be found visiting classrooms in-person to teach students directly about new technology and to bolster their understanding of familiar technology. Tricia is particularly fond of teaching the students about robotics and programming. Some of Tricia’s favorite robots to use in the classroom include Sphero, Makey Makey, and Bee-Bots. For teaching programming, Tricia is a big fan of Bitsbox, Code.org, and the block-based visual programming language Scratch.
COVID-19 & a silver lining
In response to COVID-19, schools throughout the district closed (rather ominously) on Friday the 13th of March. That weekend, Tricia spent over 20 hours of her free time in the school preparing videos and other materials for the teachers and students to ensure that there would be minimal disruption in the students’ education during the transition to remote learning.
While it definitely didn’t go by without its challenges, schools within the Richland School District were no doubt much more well prepared for remote learning than most. The reason for this is because throughout the entire district, every student is equipped with either an iPad (Pre-K to 4th-grade) or a Chromebook (5th-grade to 12th-grade). This, coupled with the fact that through Tricia’s prior teachings to both the teachers and the students, everyone had a fairly robust understanding of how to use technology, as well as how to perform some basic troubleshooting on their devices.
“When all this is said and done, there are going to be some silver linings, if we’re smart and take advantage of the things that we’ve learned”, Tricia says, talking about how Richland School District can take positives from their response to the pandemic. “Well, for one thing, I know we’ll never have another snow day in Wisconsin”, Tricia continues, confident that in the future, the district’s ability to deliver exemplary remote education will see that the students’ learning can continue uninterrupted by the harsh Wisconsin winters. Tricia knows that the students won’t be overly fond of the prospect of no snow days, but she’s optimistic that they’ll come around to the idea when they learn that they’ll get a couple more weeks tagged onto the start of their summer vacation.
Childhood career aspirations
From a very early age, Tricia was deadset on becoming a teacher. She largely attributes her desire to pursue a career in education to her early childhood teachers. Tricia remembers them as caring, approachable, and able to create an educational environment that made learning fun. “All my early teachers were great, but it was my amazing 2nd-grade teacher who really made me want to become a teacher,” Tricia tells me. Even all these years later, she remembers how Mrs. Sailsbery had a phenomenal ability for encouraging her students to reach their full potential and the confidence she had in Tricia’s ability to succeed as a young learner. After picking up the clarinet in 5th-grade, Tricia even had the subject she was going to teach locked in. “That was it, I was going to be a band teacher!”, she excitedly tells me.
Inspired by this almost life-long dream and unwaveringly determined to achieve it, Tricia went on to study music education at Winona State University. During her time at college, Tricia toured throughout the US and Canada with the college’s wind and jazz ensembles, playing a variety of instruments. After graduating, she enjoyed a successful and fulfilling career as a music teacher for close to 20 years. As a music teacher, Tricia’s affinity for technology was always obvious to her colleagues. She was consistently looking to incorporate the latest piece of music-related technology in her classroom and she was always on hand to help other staff members resolve their technology-related issues. However, it was when the school’s superintendent noticed these qualities in Tricia that the ball started rolling on the next chapter of her career.
New role transition & recognition
“I think he saw something in me, kinda type thing”, Tricia humbly tells me. It wasn’t long before the school created the brand new position of Technology Integration Professional specifically for her and gave her free rein on which direction to go with the role. Splitting her time between working full-time at the school, Tricia studied for an associate’s degree in Information Technology at Globe University Online, graduating in 2012.
In her current position, Tricia’s influence can be felt throughout the entire school district and beyond. Recognized for her skills nationwide, she regularly hosts large in-person EdTech training sessions with teachers in her district and throughout the US. She’s no stranger to virtual conferences, either. Over the past year, she’s attended at least one virtual conference every month. She spoke at ISTE20 Live in November of last year and before that, she spoke at Google’s Prepared to Learn virtual summit to over 3000 people. Tricia’s perfectly at home in front of large crowds, as a result of having performed in front of groups of thousands of people all over the US and Canada during her time as a band performer in college.
If you want to connect with Tricia and hear more of her tips on using technology in the classroom, be sure to check her out on Twitter @talouis and visit her website. You’ll definitely want to subscribe to her completely free weekly newsletter Tricia’s Tech Tuesday Tidbits, too.