Monthly Archives: Sep 2016

Devices, Guest Post, IT Specialists, Teaching, Uncategorized
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Growing Digitally… Ditching Computer Labs

tumblr_nwmkeowj7P1r8o3vyo1_1280At some point during the 2015-16 school year I heard our technology coordinator utter words neither of us dreamed would be spoken in the “tech age”: “We may no longer need a computer lab.”

I remember my first experience with a computer lab as a student. It was the only place in school where students could access computers, and the weekly assigned times in front of turquoise and purple iMac G3s were a highlight for me. Through my years as a student and continuing into my days as a teacher, the computer lab was where students came to type papers, conduct research, or try to get around filters and play games of Hangman olemonader Lemonade Stand.

So how is it possible that we could consider getting rid of such a room? Over the past three years, we have moved from a single mobile cart of 30 laptops to a pair of mobile carts before increasing our number to over 80 laptops to allow our middle school students (grades 6-8) to go 1:1. This left only our fourth and fifth graders in need of using the computer lab. While it was convenient for them, since the computer lab was much more open and available for their use, the lab’s 25+ Mac desktops had aged to the point of being unable to be updated, and new ones would have to be purchased.

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Blended Learning, Guest Post, IT Specialists, Professional Development, Teaching
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Introducing Coding in the Elementary Classroom

Intro Coding ImageCode is the language and grammar used to produce the apps and software we use every day. While real life coding can be complex, introducing students to coding in the classroom doesn’t have to be. However daunting it may seem, you can present coding to kids in second grade and even earlier. Best of all, there are great free resources you can use to jump in without much prep or expertise required on your part.

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Blended Learning, Guest Post, IT Specialists, Professional Development, Teaching
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Professional Development Excitement! Is It Possible?

julie-davis-1As an instructional technologist, when I’m introducing new technology ideas, I find that educator personalities generally fall into one of four categories:

  • I’m in!
  • Show me what you mean.
  • I’m not convinced.
  • Not in my classroom!

It’s not easy to meet the needs of all these types at the same time, so the way I introduce new tech ideas varies. It is my goal to meet teachers in their comfort zone and take them the next step. When I know whole-school PD days are on the horizon, I start asking my teachers what they want to learn in the area of educational technology. Our curriculum director and I then map out an EdCamp experience for our teachers that includes not only technology options but a variety of helpful authentic “take this back and make it work” ideas. Teachers are offered three or four choices of learning topics every 30 minutes. This format allows the teachers to quickly digest something they might want to learn more about and also allows them some choice in their learning path.  julie-davis-2

When we set up the day, we often ask teachers that are exceptional in different areas to share or demonstrate. This makes them feel affirmed, and it grows teacher leaders as resources as well. I’ve found teachers are much more receptive to learning from each other than from me, the technology person, telling them how great an idea is – especially when I don’t have a classroom of students with which to try these concepts. I enlist early adopters to lead sessions so that teachers see it from their real-world perspective, and anytime teachers can take an app/website/idea for a “test drive” alongside someone who has used it makes it far less scary. Setting up those opportunities during professional development days is a plus. While this is a brief introduction time, it allows me to ascertain who sees value in the concepts and to follow up for more one-on-one instruction with specific teachers.

julie-davis-3This year, we introduced some required curriculum changes to the teachers. Unfortunately, it was during the back-to-school rush. I tried to make the experience as hands-on as possible, with the goal of each teacher leaving a session with a lesson plan in hand. I often will introduce the concept with a hook that they can use in their classrooms as well. For instance, to introduce a day of project-based learning curriculum writing, we used a BreakoutEDU  game to encourage rapid learning of the basic concepts. Not only did our teachers learn about project-based learning but they also found out I had a BreakoutEDU toolbox available that they could utilize for critical thinking opportunities.

If you want teachers to try new thijulie-davis-4ngs and to teach using different methods, you have to model that in professional development opportunities! Look for ways to create small group, station rotation, flipped learning, inquiry-based, hands-on, connecting concepts to tasks type things that aid teachers in thinking outside their norm. The phrase professional development often incites moans of despair, but it doesn’t have to. Find the pul se of your teachers, engage them, and then ask for reflection to so that future professional development days will be seen as opportunities rather than a burden.

julie-davisA guest post by Julie Davis:

A former accountant, Julie Davis has been an educator for 14 years. She earned her master’s degree in instructional technology and serves as a technology coach and lower school technology coordinator at Chattanooga Christian School, the largest private K-12 school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This school is knee-deep in technology integration and a 1:1 computing initiative in grades 5-11. She enjoys helping teachers integrate technology into their lessons while giving them the support and tools to be successful. You can reach her at jdavis@ccsk12.com.

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