Changing the World One Technology Lesson at a Time
Kelsey Vroomunn is making a difference at her Englewood, Colorado, USA, school. She’s designing creative and engaging lessons, flipping her classroom,
and training students to teach tech to their own teachers.
Her efforts landed her a 2012 ISTE Emerging Leader Award.
But ask her the secret to her success and she credits the
support of like-minded young educators.
“Getting an award like the Emerging Leader is such an
empowering experience. You want to change the world,”
she says. “I really see ISTE’s Young Educators Network
[YEN] as a way for me to do that.”
YEN ( iste.org/yen) is a professional learning network
made up mostly of tech-using educators under the age of 35
who collaborate, share resources, and support one another.
Most of it happens virtually, on the the YEN Facebook page
or ISTE Community Ning YEN page. But when the oppor-
tunity arises—as it did at ISTE 2012 in San Diego in June—
members meet face to face.
“Being a technology lone wolf on your campus can some-
times be a solitary experience, but ISTE’s online community
and annual conference provides me with the advanced
techies that I crave,” she says. “In San Diego, it was an amaz-
ingly inspirational experience.”
Vroomunn joined ISTE in 2010, but she became interested
in technology much earlier. She got hooked in the same way
many of her students do.
“I fully admit that the reason I taught myself Photoshop
was to make fantastic invitations to parties,” she says. “Talk
about intrinsic motivation to learn!”
Vroomunn, a French and European history teacher and
instructional technology coach, parlayed that tech knowl-
edge into a way to capture students’ attention. Take, for
example, the way she flips her classroom by using Google
Earth (GE) to teach about the Cold War in her European
History course: Instead of lecturing, she has her students
study a GE map that she has embedded with formerly top-
secret cables from the Truman Presidential Library archives,
footage of Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, and some politi-
“Instead of merely answering comprehension-check
questions, students complete assignments in GE, such as
using the historical imagery to pinpoint the rise and fall of
the Berlin Wall and using paths and polygons to delineate
the Iron Curtain and the Eastern Bloc,” Vroomunn explains.
Vroomunn admits she has some ambitious ideas for incorporating technology into her lessons at St. Mary’s Academy,
and she is grateful that she always gets a green light from administrators. “Often that green light comes with a roll of the
eyes and some laughter, but I’ve gotten nothing but unfailing
support for my educational adventures,” she says.
One such adventure began after she fell in love with
Moodle at ISTE 2010 in Denver. “I went straight to my
administration and asked for it,” she recalls. “I was given
the go-ahead to pilot Moodle for the 2010–11 school year
on the condition that I teach myself over the summer. That
was one rough summer, but once the school year started,
the 100+ hours it took to create my AP European History
course were well worth it, and the data I collected from on-
going student surveys and improved AP scores helped pave
the way for campuswide adoption.”
Vroomunn describes herself as a typical millennial.
“I am highly motivated and confident in my pursuit of
success, I crave feedback and attention from my superiors,
and I want to quickly have a leadership role from which
I could effect change,” she says.
“I look back on my administration’s actions as a perfect case study on how to effectively manage and groom
a millennial teacher for leadership, and I am very grateful
for their patience, flexibility and encouragement.”
—Diana Fingal is senior editor of L&L.