Bringing the Technology Playground Back to School

| By Tiffany Zonneveld

Last summer, The DigitalJLearning Network had the pleasure of taking 15 Jewish day school educators to the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, PA. The participants shared their learning from the conference and what they hoped to implement in the coming school year. Now we're catching up with these educators and finding out how their new educational technology initiatives are going. Tiffany Zonneveld, Dean of Educational Technology and Media at The Weber School, shares her thoughts in the next installment in this new blog series.

 

Surfing on an iPhone

 

Tiffany ZonneveldAfter learning about so many amazing ways to integrate technology and education from ISTE, I was curious about a good way to bring the information back to my fellow teachers. At first I considered the usual forms of communication--presentation at a faculty meeting, email with links, etc., but eventually decided to take a cue from ISTE and create an interactive space for teachers to try out what they were learning first-hand, ala ISTE’s Technology Playground. Our technology department reserved a full faculty meeting from our supportive administration, and roped in a few colleagues to present with us. We selected some hands-on topics that would best benefit the needs of our teachers. We structured the program to allow for several rotations in order for faculty to visit a few different stations over the course of the morning, and choose which topics they wanted to learn about.

A number of teachers stepped up to share ways that technology enhances their classrooms. Our hope was that by hearing from colleagues who are not part of the technology department, teachers would see useful ways that they themselves could incorporate some of the same tools and techniques into their own classrooms.

  • A science teacher modeled how she uses Screencast-O-Matic to record videos of her lectures for students to view at home, moving toward a flipped classroom style of education. She demonstrated how she can easily record what is displayed on her Smartboard and capture audio from a headset to create short videos that walk students through various chemistry concepts. Using the videos, students can receive the material at home to review what they learned in class or prepare for an upcoming unit. This supplemental step allows the teacher to work on refining a concept rather than using class time to introduce the material to the students. In our Technology Playground, teachers who may have been reluctant to try this on their own were able to be guided through the process and try it out for themselves. After the event, I heard from several teachers who reported that they were excited to try out a flipped classroom for themselves. They were surprised that screencasting was so simply executed.
     
  • A math teacher demonstrated how she uses the app Notability as a tool for classroom management. She said that by including her notes in the app, and annotating them while her iPad is mirrored on the Smartboard, she is able to move freely around the room, checking with students to make sure they are on task and understand the material. She never has to have her back to the students while writing on the board, because all of her annotations are done on her iPad.
     
  • Two teachers talked about ways to elicit more student engagement in coursework. A Spanish teacher presented on Explain Everything and walked participants through screencasting from an iPad. Our school has several iPad carts with Explain Everything already installed, making it easy to put this technology into the hands of students, who can visually and orally demonstrate their knowledge in a fun and interactive way. Similarly, a Jewish Studies teacher modeled how she uses social media in the classroom as a platform for students to discuss and debate the material they are presented with in class, as well as tie it to current events. As students tweeted about the Tower of Babel, they were able to better synthesize the material rather than listening to a generic lecture.

Oftentimes, we hear of great ideas but due to our busy schedules, we don’t take the extra step to bring those ideas into our own classrooms. I think by seeing their colleagues successfully using great tools, teachers who may have been reluctant to use new technology in their classes were able to make that leap. Further, getting to try it out first hand will let people know that they don’t have to be “tech savvy” to try something new. As ISTE’s Technology Playground brings educators together to share and model successes in the classroom, this design works great on a smaller scale within the school to keep information and creativity flowing.

 

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