Teachers at Kuemper learn new skills,
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
“We want our teachers to view technology as a learning tool much like a text book, ruler or pen and to utilize technology, not as an addition to what they are already doing, but as an alternative to what they have been doing,” said Mary Trent, Kuemper’s technology integration specialist. “We want to give our students a variety of opportunities to practice 21st Century skills in the classroom, and technology is a major part of that skill set.”
Trent designed and manages Kuemper’s technology training program. She has been with Kuemper Catholic School for 17 years with 10 years as technology integration specialist. She plans and leads all the training sessions. She creates the Tech Tips of the Day videos, direction sheets and “how-to” screencasts. She also meets with teachers to plan integration projects and follows up by assisting teachers during the actual lesson in the classroom.
Nancy Peterman, grades 6 -12 technology teacher and school-wide technology assistant, supports Trent in meeting with teachers and assists with lessons in the classroom.
The Kuemper teachers must attend at least six hours of technology training throughout the school year as well as plan and facilitate a technology integration lesson that meets the Iowa Core Technology standard. These expectations are set by the administration and the technology department, noted Trent.
Six hours of training
Teachers are offered a variety of technology training opportunities to meet the six-hour technology training expectation.
About six times during the year, there are Tuesday night or Saturday morning three-hour sessions for the teachers to attend.
“These are longer training sessions when teachers really have time to explore, collaborate and plan for lessons to come up,” said Trent, who facilitates the training sessions with the assistance of Peterman. “We are there for support while they are working.”
Another option for the teachers is a technology mini-lesson, which is a one-hour lesson on a specific topic or resource that interests a small group of teachers. The mini-lessons might interest a group of two or three but some lessons might draw 30 teachers, noted Trent.
“We accommodate teachers needs and what they like. We try to make it work out for them,” she said. “We also have teachers lead those mini-lessons. If there is a teacher who is an expert in something or they have used it, it is much better to hear how they have integrated it in a real-world or classroom situation.”
Webinars are also available for teachers to pursue technology training on their own time.
“We want our training sessions to have rigor and differentiation just like learning opportunities we offer our students,” said Trent. “Teachers want to learn about technology which they can utilize immediately in their classrooms. We offer many options to accommodate different learning styles.”
Trent and Peterman meet with teachers one-on-one as well for personalized training. This time is also used to plan for technology integration in the classroom.
Along with the technology training, every teacher in the K-12 system will create one technology lesson that meets the Iowa Core Technology standard and six benchmarks, said Trent.
“We meet with the teachers and help them plan it out. We make sure it has rigor and relevance and has to do with their curriculum,” she said. “I come in and assist during the lesson. Sometimes I will present it. It is our goal to teach the teacher some new technology, so it’s not just the students using technology. We are teaching the teachers a new tool that they will use again in the future.”
Trent said there has been an overwhelming positive response to the technology integration. Some teachers are doing two or more technology lessons.
“We have had really great success stories,” she said. “We are hearing from our teachers that they are so very pleased that we are giving more personalized attention to the areas they need help with.”
New tools for the classroom
Mary Ann Spicer, who teaches English, creative writing and literature appreciation at Kuemper, said technology integration “sets a clear vision for effective teaching giving students a variety of modalities to learn as they aspire to become lifelong learners.”
“The technology integration program allows teachers to give students tools to encourage them to be creative,” she said. “Promoting technology integration in the classroom reinforces student collaboration with peers where content-related knowledge is compiled, synthesized, produced and disseminated using models or other creative works.”
Spicer said the students are excited to go beyond paper and pencil, whether for testing or delivering a mini-lecture.
“Technology offers the variety to engage and excite students about learning and encourages them to drop in and not out while information is being disseminated,” she said. “I have observed this where students are encouraged to use different mediums for research, presentations and when providing collaborative feedback to a small or large group.”
Barbara Hackfort, who teaches sixth and seventh grade Spanish and sixth grade Iowa history, said the technology program challenges the teachers to bring their lesson plans up to a higher level “in a way that increases student involvement.”
“The students responded enthusiastically, especially at the prospect of being able to do the graphics for their storyboards on the computer,” she said. “I had 100 percent support from the tech people here at Kuemper. They were in the classroom with me to take my students and me through every step of the project.”
21st century skills
Mary Ann Brincks, a fifth grade teacher at Kuemper, thinks the technology integration is great. She said that since “we live in such a technology-based world and there is such a wealth of information out there, that to not include technology in your lessons is a disservice to students.”
“We live in a 21st century world and students need 21st century skills along with reading and math and the other core curriculum subjects,” she said. “Technology can enrich, enhance and help develop deeper thinking skills needed in the world we live in today.”
“They are not afraid to try, explore and wonder,” she said. Technology can take them places where they have never gone before, and make a great big world a much smaller place. They have access to people, places, and information that we adults had never dreamed of as children.”
Janet Muhlbauer, who teaches grades 9-12 math at Kuemper, thinks technology integration is a necessary component when it comes to professional development for teachers in the 21st century.
“Even though we may not have grown up with it, our students have, and it's very much a part of their lives,” she said. “Because of this, I often learn from my students as well as through classes offered on technology.
Keeping up with all the changes is impossible but not necessary. What is more important is figuring out which ones make sense for me as a teacher and my students as we search for knowledge and understanding.”
For her, one of the “more exciting possibilities” she looks forward to investigating in the near future is integrating more parents and other community members into the curriculum through technology.
“They are a vast resource we often do not tap because of time/distance constraints but those obstacles are being minimized with technology,” said Muhlbauer.
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