With students out of school for summer vacation, area teachers spent some time this week learning about digital devices and programs that can be incorporated into their classrooms and daily lessons.
As part of Techpalooza ‘17, a three-day conference hosted by the Sherman Independent School District, educators from 21 area school districts descended on Sory Elementary School for lessons and workshops on everything from iPads and interactive whiteboards to movie-making and Microsoft Office programs.
“Technology will never replace teachers in the classroom,” Sherman ISD Director of Technology Mignon Plyler said. “However, we have to have teachers who know what to do with their devices and programs and how to use them to help students learn.”
The courses and presentations of Techpalooza were led largely by staff from Sherman ISD’s information technology department and a few of the district’s tech-savvy teachers. But Plyler said the mix of educators who were there to learn ended up sharing many of their own tech tips and strategies with one another.
“We’re seeing a lot of networking going on,” Plyler said. “When you get teachers together in a room talking about how they use the technology differently in their classrooms, then you get a lot of learning and collaboration.”
Plyler explained that technology offers a host of tools which can streamline and expand much of the work that goes on in classrooms, but she added that teachers also have a responsibility to model the responsible use of technology to their students.
“If they don’t learn how to live in that digital world from us, if they don’t know the proper etiquette what is appropriate and what isn’t, they’re going to learn it somewhere,” Plyler said of students. “We want to make sure our teachers are equipped to leverage the technology.”
Piner Middle School Texas history teacher Jacqulyn Joe attended Techpalooza and said she found the the overview of Google’s applications and programs very useful for both her work and her students’ work.
“I can send them lessons, they can send me their work and we can save everything on the web,” Joe said. “It’s going to cut down on the paper quite a bit. I can instantly grade assignments for them. They’re going to get immediate feedback on how they did. And when the’re in a group, they can collaborate in real time with each other.”
Joe said it is imperative that educators embrace technology because its presence in higher education environments and the working world is only growing and students need to be familiar with it by the the time they get there.
“Technology is really important for the schools,” Joe said. “It’s very essential. While the pencil and paper are still good and I still use them, most of these kids will be using technology more and more as they get older and go into college or start working.”
The middle school teacher said educators shouldn’t feel any shame if they aren’t familiar with available classroom technologies, and added the best place to go for help might be just a short walk down the hall.
“Get with your fellow teachers and make best friends with your tech specialist,” Joe said. “They’ll help you out.”