Local K-12 Teachers Profit from Technology

June 20, 2014

Twenty K-12 teachers from Pasco County, FL, took advantage of a weeklong institute at University Campus that provided free training in new classroom technology tools that can help the educators better engage students in their own classrooms. More than 100 classroom teachers applied for the training organized by Saint Leo University’s Undergraduate Education Department, clearly affirming the need and desire for such professional development. The institute was held from June 9 through 13.

Saint Leo education professors suspected there would be plenty of interest. They developed the institute after discovering that pre-service teachers (undergraduate education majors in field placements) from Saint Leo, who are expected to learn how to incorporate technology into their classroom lessons, are often assigned to work with classroom teachers who are experienced educators, but who lack confidence and training in the use of classroom technology.

Saint Leo was happy to help. Education faculty state clearly that they don’t intend to promote the use of technology just because it is new or different. Instead, they regard technology as a potentially useful tool that can be applied to improve teaching and learning. The institute asked teachers to focus on developing engaging lessons using one of two readily available devices — an iPad computer tablet or a Mimio Teach, which is a portable device that can be used in conjunction with a laptop computer to turn a plain wall into an interactive instruction board. Funds from the Jesse Ball DuPont Foundation paid for the devices.

After four days of training with Saint Leo faculty and staff, and working with peers in small groups, the teachers presented some of their ideas for the coming school year.

One second-grade teacher, for instance, decided that to start she will use the iPad with students for four math lessons. Each student will have an iPad from the school during those classroom periods. She will have the students use the iPads to work through math exercises while she and their other classmates are present and available for questions. Some educators have found this approach can give students more confidence than trying to work through problems by themselves at home.

Another elementary teacher said she wants to use the Mimio Teach in a similar way, but to create lessons that will help students who struggle with understanding multiplication concepts, a learning hurdle that crops up fairly frequently.

Institute graduates also reported feeling more confident after the training. One teacher wrote: “I’m pretty comfortable with technology, but now I’m more comfortable with using it as a tool for learning.” Another said she was grateful for “a network of colleagues who have a shared vision for technology in learning.”

Institute graduates also pledged to create a yearlong research project tracking the impact of their selected tools on student achievement. The classroom teachers will reconnect with one another and their institute faculty during meetings scheduled for the fall and spring to review and support their research efforts.

The classroom teachers also promised to conduct at least two professional development trainings on the tool of their choice for their schools or districts.

Saint Leo hopes to repeat the camp next summer, and eventually replicate it in other Florida localities where it provides the education major.