Teachers take a lesson in technology

Warsaw Community Schools continues to integrate new and innovative technologies into the classroom. As part of that endeavor, it hosted the e3Technology Conference Thurs. and Fri. this week, inviting some 400 guests and presenters to attend the tech-centric conference.

The conference was part of the Indiana Dept. of Education’s Summer of eLearning, and Warsaw applied for, and won grant money to put together the two-day event. The goal was to have teachers from inside and outside Warsaw Community Schools to learn how to use technology in meaningful ways to help students, themselves, and fellow teachers adapt to the changing media field.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker, Dr. Milton Chen, senior fellow and executive director, emeritus at The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF). Chen discussed how school systems across the country are reinventing themselves by focusing on their growing “edges” of innovation: the thinking, curriculum, technology, time/place, co-teaching and the youth edges.

Digital screens and computers seem to be everywhere, Chen said that with children watching anywhere from four to seven hours of television or media everyday it is important to find the education in it.

“This is the way the world is going, we’ll be using digital devices and screens to access knowledge,” Chen explained, “it will start young, and as it was with television, we’ll continuously define learning uses of this new media every day.”

Part of that redefining will involve approaching learning differently.
“I think it does require a new philosophy,” Chen said that involves reexamining how a school is organized, how learning is organized and what role the student plays in the classroom. A large effort in the move towards technological reliance involves allowing students to be more collaborative.

Chief technology officer for Warsaw Community Schools, Brad Hagg, said they've slowly integrated technology into the classroom because they feel the shift begins with the teacher.

“Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer probably should be,” Hagg said, “the computer is just a tool, an effective teacher can connect the student with the learning can really use that tool to make an impact.”

Some of those tools include digital white boards, one-to-one transformative computer desks, laptops and iPad classes.

Now that students easily and frequently access the internet, Hagg said it comes to teachers stepping back from the lecturing at the front of the classroom and assuming a more directorial role in students’ learning.

The e3Technology Conferences are occurring throughout the summer at 17 schools throughout the state. The days of the conference are divided into different sessions, each with a topic expert who presents how to use a new technology in the classroom.

Warsaw’s conference included a Prezi tutorial, speeches and presentations on digital tools and various vendors from within the tech industry. But beyond mastering the technology, Chen reminded conference-goers that the most important thing for teachers to impart upon their students is “digital citizenship.”

Chen said digital citizenship means using digital media as a “learner,” and recognizing that time spent in the classroom is important no matter what: “just as you would with a teacher that’s delivering information in a lecture format, attention is important, understanding why you’re there is important as is making better use of your time.”

The same technology being adapted into classroom formats is also used in students’ free time—raising some concern that the digital tools could be distracting. But Hagg and Chen agree that if the laptops, the Internet and the media is used in an engaging way that demands participation there will be no more distractions that a traditional class setting.

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