Most of his education colleagues don’t know that, as a young man, Tim was an avid composer, arranger, performer, and recording artist. Music has always been central to his life. In fact, in addition to his main career path in public education, Tim also worked as a church music director for over 30 years. This fact actually had profound implications for his work as an educator.
In the early 1980s he was among the first to adopt emerging digital technology in the field of music. While teaching at the University of Illinois and working on his doctorate, he could also take as many courses as he wanted for free. This was on the cusp of the development of the music instrument digital interface (MIDI), sampling, synthesis, and sequencing, and he dove into these courses for the sheer joy of learning. These then-burgeoning technologies naturally led him to form a lasting love for technology as a tool with the potential for profound creativity and empowerment. Yes, these experiences were to have a significant impact on his career as an educator.
Tim worked in the field of education for over 35 years as a music teacher (at the middle school, high school, and college levels), an administrator, a motivational speaker, and a consultant. Because he executed a remarkable vision for technology implementation into the whole of the school plan as a principal, The School Library Journal called Dr. Tyson the “Pied Piper of Educational Technology.” He served the students in the Cobb County School District for over 20 years, where, before his retirement, he was the principal of Mabry Middle School. He was named one of Georgia’s High Performance Principals by then Governor Sonny Purdue.
Tim has a passion for meaningful, authentic learner engagement, and technology was seen as a centerpiece for creating irresistible academic achievement through creative, global, project-based learning activities in which students actively used what they learned in their classes on a global level literally to make the world a better place. After retiring from Mabry Middle School, he turned his attention to supporting the profession on a national and international level by sharing his passion and practical expertise for integrating technology into the entire school plan—a proven vision that worked.
Dr. Tyson served as the principal of Mabry Middle School in Cobb County School District for six years, and one of the best sources of information about that work experience was MabryOnline.org, the school web presence from August, 2005, until June, 2007. Tim developed the site himself from the ground up. It served the world over 1.5 million files each month (a total of over 30,000,000 files in the first two years), and averaged almost 6,000 requests per day ((These figures do not include any of the media files served through the iTunes Store.)) – unheard of back then when most internet users were still using infernally slow dialup modems and waiting, waiting, waiting.
Before Tim’s retirement, MabryOnline.org was self-sustaining and was kept active and current by every staff member. The website was really a collection of almost 100 teacher and staff blogs that included podcasts, video, pdfs of class work on the interactive whiteboards, homework assignments, 360º panoramas, review activities, learning extension activities, etc. The website also featured international collaborations with other schools, scientists, and university research professors in its Global Learning Initiative. You can find the original MabryOnline.org site at the internet web archive.
Podcast Central was a key component of the website as it served as a critical communication strategy for the school and welcomed the world into Mabry’s learning community. The podcasts, which were the second educational podcasts to appear on the iTunes store (and the only ones at the time from a K-12 institution) gave students an international publishing platform in which they could develop and showcase their learning with a singular goal: change the world for the better.
THE FILM FESTIVAL
Tim created the Annual Mabry Film Festival, the first of its kind. The film festival was nothing short of the Oscars for education—red carpet, lights in the sky, pre-parties, tuxes and gowns, but above all: students wildly excited about the world premier of their school work to a packed and enthusiastic house – standing room only.
All of the student team-produced films were focused on what the students had learned in school that year. Moving well beyond academic assessment, the students were being challenged to answer for themselves that typical adolescent question: “Why do we have to learn this?”. The festival attained international recognition, even from people in the TV and film industries. The George Lucas Foundation’s Magazine, Edutopia, said that Mabry’s Film Festival is “like the Oscars but not lame.”
All of the movies from the 2006 and 2007 film festivals are online and on the iTunes store. You will be amazed that 11, 12 and 13 year old children produced this exemplary, deeply-moving work. But don’t just read about it. Experience it!
The program director of Georgia Public Broadcasting, Patrice Weaver, said, “This is as good as anything I’ve ever seen.” In fact, she said that the 7th grade movie on human embryonic stem cell research was better than most of the things she has aired on TV!
Dr. Moersch, principal investigator and creator of the internationally-recognized LoTi (Level of Technology Implementation) Project, and Director and Co-Founder of the National Business Education Alliance stated that “This [the Mabry Film Festival] is the first and only Level 6 Technology Implementation I’ve seen in the country. This is the highest level of educational technology integration in the nation.”
In April, 2006, Leslie Connery, Deputy CEO and Conference Chair for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) referred to Dr. Tyson’s work at Mabry as “a national treasure.” He was invited to be the closing keynote speaker for NECC in June of 2007, speaking, along with two students from Mabry, to the 17,000 attendees.
As a result of Mabry’s enormous web presence, the school welcomed hundreds of visitors from around the USA. In fact, having seen the students’ work online, visitors even came from around the world to visit the school to see how teachers and students leveraged technology to achieve his vision for students and teachers: learn, create, connect, and above all: contribute. Remember, this vision for education was deeply rooted in his background as a musician leveraging technology to create beauty in this world through the art of music.
Under Tim’s leadership Mabry was awarded the prestigious School’s of Distinction Award for Technology Innovation from Intel Corporation and Scholastic receiving over a quarter million dollars in grants.
Georgia Public Broadcasting produced a special TV program aired around the state that featured Mabry’s amazing technology innovations.
Invited to Washington, DC, by the US Department of Education’s Office of Instructional Technology, Tim participated in a national think tank to develop a strategic plan and resources for principals to advance America’s public school’s implementation of creative, engaging, technology-based instructional practice in the nation’s classrooms.
Dr. Tyson routinely traveled the world to share with students, parents, teachers, curriculum specialists, board members, state policy makers, district administrators, and university professors empowering ways to consider using technology with an emphasis on making the classroom transparent, giving students a powerful global voice, and making our world a better place. He was quoted in newspapers and featured in, or wrote for, a variety of professional magazines, journals, and books.
“I wld like Tim Tyson 2 talk 2 every single teacher that my child evr has in the future. NOT EVEN KIDDING. (this is me; as a parent)
— Teacher (tweet), NY
“[Your presentation] touched on so many topics that affect me as a teacher and a parent. It is rare that I leave a workshop and think about it ALL day. … You caused me to really examine the ways in which I am guiding my students and my own son. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!”
— Teacher, NJ
“At my best, I might be able take an audience where they are and show them a few new things they might not know about, but Dr. Tim Tyson has the ability to take them on a journey, a journey to a whole new place.”
— Technology Coordinator, TX
“Dr. Tyson, Today you changed my life! I will never teach the same way again.”
— Teacher, FL
“We’re teachers. We know all about empowering others. But what you have done for us these past two days goes way beyond that. They need to invent a new word for what you do. It’s just astounding! Thank You!”
— Teacher, GA
“I so appreciated the type of administrative model Dr. Tyson presents!”
— Superintendent, IL
“This was unbelievably awesome. Thanks so much for your incredible energy and vision.”
— Principal, CA
“Thank you! Thank you! Your passion is inspirational!”
— Teacher, MI
“I want to replicate this model into a sustainable school structure.”
— Information and Communication Technology, UK
“Dr. Tyson demonstrates the power of passion.”
— Tech Support, MI
“I want you to come work for me today!
— Superintendent, GA
“We want you to be our Superintendent and lead us into the future! We need you here.”
— School Board Chairman, TX
Here are just a couple of examples of Tim’s thinking about education at the turn of the century.
In this podcast with David Warlick, from 2005, Tim was asked to answer 5 questions. These questions helped him formalize his thinking. This is the podcast David made of his first question to Dr. Tyson: What’s the difference between Mabry Middle School and the schools you attended in your youth? Tim is introduced at 1.57.
Dr. Tyson’s presentation, with 2 students from Mabry, to over 15,000 NECC attendees in 2007.
Tim simultaneously had a 30 year music career and a 40 year career as an educator – careers that were more dynamic than anything he ever could have imagined as a young man. He officially and finally retired in 2015. But, to this day, public education and service to others remain core values that motivate his daily life.
Dr. Tyson strongly believes that today is the day that, no matter how young or old you are, your life can become even more meaningful, significant and fulfilling as you focus your efforts on empowering everyone around you to make our shared world a better place for all of us.