Summer Technology Institute engages faculty with new tools
The mantra of the 3-day session was "Ask, Play, Learn, Share!" This idea was developed in hopes of creating a stress-free environment for experimentation.
The Summer Institute combined lectures, hands-on workshops and discussions all based around educational technology. Attendees were introduced to a variety of tools and platforms to try. Presentations included using Twitter to build a "professional learning network," ways to increase engagement using Moodle, and group participation using the Padlet web application. Faculty were also introduced to Google Drive and the opportunities for collaborative work, hybrid course development, and introductions to iMovie.
Presentations and workshops were led both by School of Education faculty as well as outside sources. Speakers included Sarah Fountain, principal of Monte Vista Elementary School, Shira Katz from Common Sense Media, and Robin Mencher from KQED Education.
Professor Michael Lesch said he was appreciative of the light-hearted approach to the workshop. Appreciative of both the structure and atmosphere at the institute, he noted "Jessica [Parker] was sensitive to our fears about technology." Other participants expressed similar sentiments. "For children today technology is just an extension of their identities," said Parker. "But for those of us who haven't grown up with it we need to adopt and share this mindset to help lessen anxiety," she said about the mantra. "We can't do it as separate individuals, it must be collaborative," she added.
During the debrief on the final day attendees broke into discussion groups to consider the practical applications of the tech tools they'd learned. Anthropology professor Karin Jaffee put many of the ideas to use right away in her summer class. "I used a Google Doc to have students 'build' our first lecture by filling in a table with terms and answering questions I would normally answer in a PowerPoint presentation. I also used Padlet to get students to answer questions that I would also normally address with a PowerPoint. Both assignments resulted in much conversation among the students, who were divided into groups, and also allowed me to have a class discussion to highlight good answers and address problematic ones. And I've already received feedback from the students indicating that they like the increased in-class participation! I'm thrilled with what I learned at SOESTI and so glad I've been able to implement ideas so quickly and successfully!"
Faculty member Erma Jean-Sims said she saw the potential for Padlet in her classes. "I like that it's instantaneous. Students are seeing and responding in real time," she said. "It could be especially helpful for getting more introverted students to participate, those who wouldn't normally raise their hands."
The general consensus was that educational technology needs to be used in practical, purposeful and usable ways. It's important to strike a delicate balance between engagement and distraction for students. Robin Mencher of KQED summed up this idea by saying "technology is the vehicle, but not the driver," said Robin Mencher of KQED. Educators must be the facilitators to help guide their classes.
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