Technology Showcase Provides Opportunity for Creative Idea Sharing and Professional Dialogue

Posted by Pamela Van Halsema on December 7, 2012 11:36 AM

Despite the stormy weather outside, an enthusiastic crowd of teachers, school and district administrators, university faculty, staff, and Sonoma State Students gathered in the Student Union on November 29 for an evening of creative idea sharing and professional dialogue about educational technology. Twenty-nine student and alumni presenters showed examples of the kinds of lessons that they are designing using new media tools. What is unique about this showcase is the emphasis not on the tools themselves, but on how they are used to increase student engagement and student learning. Carlos Ayala, Interim Dean of the School of Education posed the question, "How can we create a better learning environment for students through the integration of technology, and how do we know it is better?" Presentations at the event demonstrated how new teachers at Sonoma State are working to answer those questions.

Dr. Jessica K. Parker first organized the Technology Showcase last year, as part of a project funded by Google. Dr. Parker noted that this year the event has more than doubled in size. This year's Showcase was once again sponsored by Google, with additional support from KQED Education and Edutopia (The George Lucas Education Foundation); both of these organizations tabled at the event.

What the Showcase revealed is that across all subjects and age groups, new technology tools provide many possibilities for engaging students, providing teachers with tools for teaching and assessing student progress. There are many useful tools that foster open student collaboration and creative opportunities for student engagement. The Showcase also demonstrated that there is much room for research on how these tools can best be applied to advance learning.

Many of the applications that were on view were not originally developed for educators, but have been applied to teaching in unique and powerful ways by these beginning teachers. For example, a team of Special Education teacher candidates Wendy Franklin, Samantha Thurston and Erica Metz showed how music entertainment software Garage Band can help students learn vocabulary. And Diane Dalenberg, Master's Degree candidate in Educational Leadership showed how she re-purposed two children's storybook websites to analyze children's reading skills with retrospective miscue analysis.

Some presentations showed how applications can provide ways for reluctant students to become more engaged and active in learning. Christina Sanders and Tasha Schmitz, both from the Multiple Subject program, demonstrated using Voicethread to get students to talk about literature. Carmen Vecchitto, a candidate in Single Subject Spanish showed how a 'digital jump start' can warm students up and help them be ready to learn more in a Spanish lesson. Julia Marrero and Mary-Clare Neal showed how the social learning platform Edmodo can help keep students engaged and collaborate on learning activities beyond the classroom walls.

The atmosphere at the event was one of wonder, hope and possibility--an invitation for educators to try new things and share ideas with colleagues, to experiment and innovate all to help foster student learning. In the lobby of the Student Union, informal 'sandbox' areas were provided for one on one dialogue about tools, equipment and applications. Clearly, in this ever-changing technology environment, educators from all backgrounds need to be agile and open to learning new skills. The robust attendance at the event showed that many teachers, administrators and students are eager to acquire some of these skills themselves.

Dean Ayalay noted that Sonoma State's School of Education is ready to be a center for innovation in educational technology for the region and welcomes opportunities for collaboration and research in this arena. Hosting this annual Showcase, offering credential and advanced degree programs that spur innovation in schools, and participating in partnerships that encourage collaboration and innovation all contribute to this effort to support the appropriate use of educational technology in our schools.