Opening our Eyes

On Thursday, February 3rd, the participants of this year’s Leadership Siouxland class had the opportunity to learn about technology integrations, Web 2.0 tools and variety of hardware that can be used to increase personal productivity as well as strengthen student engagement, higher order thinking, collaboration, and problem solving, decision-making and reading/writing skills. A special thanks goes to Dr. Rich McGrath, Jeff Sypersma, Amanda Den Beste and Layne Henn for showcasing the roles Northwest AEA and the Sioux City Community School District are playing in preparing our students for their futures in the 21st Century. Several participants asked for a listing of the various tools and resources introduced. Keeping with the technology theme – a blog post seemed like the likely venue!

Leadership Role – A Principal’s Perspective (Dr. Rich McGrath)

Dr. McGrath shared a variety of tools and resources he uses. By learning the benefits of such tools, he is not only able to increase his own productivity but also is able to support his staff as they integrate technology. Dr. McGrath ended his presentation by stating that many of the tools and resources shared were things he learned through Twitter. He encouraged the participants, from all walks of life, to consider seeking out people and groups on Twitter that share their own career interests. Many were surprised to hear that Twitter just wasn’t about telling the world some trivial piece of information. @djakes recent Tweet shows the misconception some people have of Twitter.

Resources shared by Dr. McGrath:

  • Google Doc – To gather data from teachers
  • Google Sites – For development of professional portfolio
  • Wikispaces – Simple way to develop a website to house important information to share with others. (Example: My own Wiki – LearnGrowLead – open for public viewing.)
  • Animoto Animoto turns your photos and video clips into professional video slideshows in minutes. Fast, free and shockingly simple – we make awesome easy.
  • Animoto for Education – Enhance your digital classroom with Animoto, the perfect tool for creating videos and presentations. It takes just minutes to create a video which can bring your lessons to life.
  • Voki – Voki is a free service that allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on your blog, profile, and in email messages.
  • Blogging – Dr. McGrath uses WordPress. You can find his blog at Dr. Rich McGrath’s Blog: A journey into School Improvement: A Principal’s Perspective
    • A few other blogging platforms are Blogger, Posterous (a very simple platform for first time bloggers!)

Sioux City Community School District Perspective (Layne Henn)

Layne Henn highlighted a few of the great things happening in the Sioux City Community School District, both from the perspective of what new technologies have been added into classrooms and more importantly the teachers’ and students’ reactions to integrating these technologies in order to increase student learning.

The teacher reactions can be found in his blog post entitled: Leadership Academy Presentation. Layne’s blog, What’s the Tech Buzz, provides readers additional information on technology integration.

Layne also shared the power of electronic classroom responders. Participants were able try out the responders and see how teachers can receive instant feedback. Again, he shared a reaction of one teachers. The teacher was skeptic, but tried integrating the new technology. As students took a short quiz, classroom responses were totaled in “real-time.” Not only did the teacher find the information valuable, but so did the students. Students were able to see they were not alone in their thoughts. The teacher reported that powerful discussions took place during the class period about why certain responses were chosen. The students engaged in higher order thinking and face-to-face interactions while the teacher was able to determine “next steps” in his instruction. That kind of dialogue would never have taken place if the teacher had to correct the students papers at a different time and then bring them back to students. The “learning moment” would have been over. Students would have only fixated on the “grade” rather than the “learning.”

Classroom of the Future (Jeff Sypersma and Amanda DenBeste)

Participants had an opportunity to step in to the future! Northwest AEA has recently transformed a room into The Classroom of the Future. “The classrooms purpose, as detailed on the Northwest AEA website, is to train teachers and AEA staff about technology used for instruction in classrooms. Teachers and staff members can schedule the room for the purpose of being trained in strategies of how classroom instruction can be enhanced through the use of technology. The classroom is a model of how technology can be used in a whole group, small group and in individual teaching.

Teachers and staff members can experience what life might be like in a classroom centered on 21st Century Skills. The goal is for teachers and staff members of the Northwest AEA to be trained, knowledgeable and informed of technology that is being used now and in the future for classroom instruction.”

Amanda DenBeste introduced participants to the benefits of interactive white boards. Some participants were able to show off their math skills using one of the interactive programs developed. It is always fun to watch the “inner child” come out!

Jeff Sypersma highlighted a wide variety of the resources in The Classroom of the Future. The possibilities are endless! Additional information can be found on Jeff’s blog: Jeff’s Stuff – Social Networking.

Wii and DSi software:

  • Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?
  • Brain Age
  • Brain Challenge II
  • Learn Spanish
  • Learn Math
  • Curious Village

Hardware shared:

  • Netbook Tablet (Bytespeed)
  • iPad
  • iPod Touch, Nano, Shuffle and Classic
  • Wii
  • Nentindo DSi
  • Flip Camera
  • Music Keyboard, Mixer and Microphone (demonstrated Garageband)
  • Digital cameras and camcorders
  • 27″ iMac

Other items shared:

  • Podcasts and Vodcasts
  • Google apps. (Discussed the State of Iowa’s four-year agreement with Google)
  • Video editing/Audio editing
  • Skype (collaboration)
  • Blackberrys, Droids and iPhones

Overall feedback of the session was very positive. Participants were surprised at how education is changing in our schools and preparing student for the workplace.

Great things are happening in eduction in our area (and beyond)! It is an exciting time to be in the field of education! Our world is changing all around us. As new technologies are introduced – so is a whole new vocabulary set. Our children’s’ futures will look different from our own. It is our responsibility to prepare them!