Keeping up with kids’ tech savvy poses quandary for today’s teachers

Photo courtesy thriveglobal.com

By Diana Nelson

Students and teachers agree— technology is cool.

The question is, how can teachers keep it relevant in an academic setting—in other words, away from ubiquitous social media sites and mindless games? For educators, it’s a struggle to stay a few steps ahead of the kids, who quickly grasp all types of tech.

Kyrene leaders say they recognized the dilemma and commissioned the district’s technology team to develop tech lessons for teachers. They came up with Technology Integration Summits, an approach which provides training that can be immediately integrated into the classroom.

“The (summits) came about as a result of our district’s goals in the technology plan,” said Jacinta Sorgel, technology integration coordinator for the district and an 18-year Kyrene employee.

“The plan has three goals—one for each of the stakeholder groups we support: our students, teachers and administrators,” said Sorgel.

At a recent governing board meeting, staff in the technology group explained the district’s plan to remain current in technology. Within the next four years, all Kyrene students will experience integrated technology lessons, STEM activities and other curriculum content—all approved by the International Society of Technology in Education, the organization that determines student standards.

Administrators will sustain a culture devoted to the digital age, while teachers will further support that cultural expectation in the classrooms. To support more tech learning by administrators and teachers, the tech summits include scheduled times to engage with hands-on learning.

“One of our strategies is to offer (technology summits) on early-release Wednesdays, which provide our teachers with accessible and relevant technical, professional development. We also meet the ISTE technology standards for continuing education,” said Sorgel.

Sorgel’s partner in coordinating summits for each of the 25 schools in the district is fellow tech coordinator JoAnne Skoglund, who started in the Kyrene District 14 years ago.

Skoglund says the value in teachers attending a summit is the opportunity to have a dedicated time for exposure to new concepts and to learning tools and applications geared just for education.

“It gives teachers time to learn and to ask questions in an environment where you don’t have to feel embarrassed,” said Skoglund.

During each tech summit, teachers can select two sessions to attend, out of a possible eight to 14 choices, which all meet continuing education requirements for grades K to 8.

In addition to the summits, a new concept at some Kyrene schools is to identify a staff member who serves as the lead on school technology integration. This allows a trained, on-site technology expert to provide daily support to teachers.

In the past year, Mariposa transformed into being known as a Computer Science Academy and now offers its young students, in grades K-5, a full immersion program using technology in every classroom.

According to Mariposa Principal Spencer Fallgatter, the tech summits provided to teachers are critical to maintaining and developing their skills. The use of Google applications, including the interactive learningchoice board games, are introduced and created during the sessions.

“The focus of the summit was on the use of Google applications, implementing new project-based learning modules, the use of the SMART board as an interactive tool, and much more. The summit also allows for cross-grade level and school collaboration, and the chance to learn from each other,” said Fallgatter, who recently participated in a tech summit.

“This is particularly important at Mariposa because we have the only computer immersion program in the district. We provide opportunities for student to gain computer science and coding skills so they can become more than just users of technology, but also critical thinkers,” said Fallgatter.

The final goal is for Kyrene kids to be able to use these acquired skills to enhance their learning in other content areas such as science and social studies.

Fallgatter says that this summer, Mariposa teachers have worked to enhance and to develop existing projects, such as additional on-line lessons, and create choice boards in other academic content areas.

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