Born to Be Wired

First Posted: 8/5/2009

Students are learning in new ways with technology playing a consistently larger role in engaging them in learning.
Surry County Schools has tried to bridge the gap between the traditional methods used in classrooms and the multitude of technology available this week with a technology conference.
Born to Be Wired has been held this week beginning on Monday and was open to faculty members of the Surry County School System. The four-day conference was broken down into grade ranges with prekindergarten through second-grade teachers and administrators attending Monday, third- through fifth-grade teachers and administrators on Tuesday, middle school teachers and administrators on Wednesday and high school teachers and administrators on Thursday.
Each day was fully packed with five sessions, each lasting one hour. That means participants could take up to five courses during a day. Before the conference, teachers were asked to take a technology skills survey to determine their level of technological proficiency. The sessions were labeled according to which level of proficiency they were geared towards.
Participants could take courses in such topics as WordPress, where they learned to create a classroom Web site, using PowerPoint in the classroom or using United Streaming, which allows teachers to search for and download videos and images to use in class.
Jackie Collins, an Academically and Intellectually Gifted teacher at Central Middle School, participated in sessions about using Movie Maker and Google Tools.
Both sessions have been wonderful, she said. This is something the kids probably do. We can learn from each other and learn together.
Sandy White, a seventh-grade science and social studies teacher at Central Middle School, will take information from the conference into her classrooms this fall and will now be better equipped to work with the laptops her students should receive around January as part of the 1:1 laptop initiative.
I am astounded and amazed by all of the technology we have available to us, she said. I am learning so much Im about to explode. Were learning to support and trouble shoot and the students will be good help, too. It will absolutely help when the laptops come in.
White took part in a thinking maps session, which taught participants to use the software to create thinking maps for whole class instruction; a SMART session, which explained about SMART technology and how to use it in the classroom; and Google Tools, which includes Google sites, calendars, notebook and Docs. Even then, there were more sessions she wanted to attend.
I just wish I could go to all of them, she said.
Jodi Southern, one of the instructors, taught a session on Skype and how to use it in the classroom. She taught participants how to download the program and ideas on how to use it in the classroom. Participants also Skyped with the author of the childrens book, one of the many resources available through the program.
We want to make sure they use it for educational purposes, she said. The possibilities in education with it will be phenomenal. Ive learned more presenting about it and I cant wait to go back to my classroom.
The sessions with Skype were varied in level with some teachers who had never used the program before to those who use it frequently but signed up for the session to make sure they are using it the right way.
Emily Dollyhite, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Central Middle School, participated in one of the Skype sessions.
The kids in our feeder elementary schools are using it already so we need to be prepared when they come to us, she said of Skype. They can talk to the classroom next door or across the world. They already know some of this.
Katie McCrary, a presenter, taught sessions in Google Tools and Microsoft Word 2007.
Google Tools especially offers a lot of resources for teachers and students to create documents online and have collaboration. It also allows teachers to collect data electronically, she said. Microsoft Word is a new entity in itself because it is so different than 2003. I think they are finding a lot of useful information.
Some of the sessions were geared towards administrators and helping them learn to efficiently collect data and use spreadsheets through Microsoft Excel.
Some are streamlined for administrators like using Excel to filter data, said Janet Atkins, principal at Central Middle School. I took a session on Picasa and Movie Maker to learn how to take pictures and music and make short movies. Google Tools gives you almost instant feedback.
Neil Atkins, principal at Pilot Mountain Middle School, took a session on Skype and learned how he can integrate the program into his school. By having all of the teachers at the school sign up for Skype accounts, he can communicate with them instantly in their classrooms or talk to all of the teachers in a certain group at one time.
Jodi Southern spoke about how they use it at Dobson Elementary and I could see the possibilities in our school, he said. We can show kids how to conference with people half-way across the U.S. Thats real world 21st century learning.
He also attended a session conducted by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Terri Mosley regarding Microsoft Excel for administrators. He learn about the different ways to organize and analyze data.
With the 1:1 laptop initiative rolling out in middle schools with seventh graders this year, middle school administrators and teachers are having to become more familiar with technology and the appropriate way to use it in the classroom.
Many of the participants are already asking to have follow-ups to the sessions they are taking and also asking to make the conference an annual event.
The conference was the brain child of Jill Reinhardt, director of CTE/technology, and Jennifer Scott, director of communications/professional development.
It began as a dream, said Scott. And our dream became a reality when the administrators and board of education allowed us to plan.
The school system has been sending about 40 educators to the state technology conference every year to learn about the new programs. Even with that, however, the information was only reaching a limited audience. Scott and Reinhardt wanted a greater number of people to have a similar opportunity.
There is learning taking place among teachers and administrators in unprecedented ways, said Scott. Its hands-on learning from master teachers on equipment we already have available. The trainers have sample lesson plans so they can use technology to teach the standard course of study.
The participants in the conference used 220 laptops on top of the three fully-functional computer labs available at North Surry High School. Fifteen classrooms were in use five times each day helping teachers to learn about all of the technology available for them to use.
A team of five technicians took part in troubleshooting during the conference as well as stepping in to teach some of the sessions.
These technicians were not the only ones responsible for making the conference happen. Staff in child nutrition provided lunch each day while maintenance staff made sure all of the equipment was where it needed to be and clerical staff helped with registration. There were even student participants at the opening session each morning.
Its a total team effort, said Scott, noting that a 2009 graduate from Surry Central High School was the speaker at the opening session each day and thanked the participants for being willing to learn the way students learn.
Scott also said the attendance of teachers has been great even though it is still officially summer vacation.
Its just a phenomenal experience, she said. The teachers are already asking for this to be an annual event. The training will continue in a variety of ways through online courses, hybrid courses and face-to-face meetings. This is just the beginning for training throughout the school year.
Contact Morgan Wall at [email protected] or 719-1929.

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