Independence Teachers Attend Ohio Educational Technology Conference
On February 9 - 11, teachers from Independence Local Schools were able to attend the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC) in Columbus. This conference gave the more than 4,000 educational technology professionals and enthusiasts in attendance the opportunity to collaborate on technology, ideas and learn how to improve their classroom environment. A huge part of the conference was educating teachers on how to integrate P-20 educational technology into their classrooms. The conference also allows teachers to see a variety of new technology vendors and get advice from guest speakers.
Each day of the conference had a different agenda with various speakers and workshops. Mike Pennington, Independence Local School’s technology director, hosted a competition between Google Certified Teachers and Apple Distinguished Educators. The teachers competing were given the task of using only their given platforms to create a learning tool which focused on the seventh grade standards of teaching the Renaissance. In the end, the Apple Team created an iBook with multimedia and built-in assessment and vocabulary work, while the Google Team used Google Docs and YouTube to create a “social studies teacher’s dream course of study.” After the competition, both teaching tools were shared with the attendees to take back and hopefully implement in their districts. “The driving philosophical idea behind this presentation ‘show down’ was that both platforms encourage creativity, individuality and deep learning. I made the point to the audience that 1-to-1 programs should supply students with the ‘Swiss army knife’ of devices,” said Pennington.
For Joe Hribar, Independence Middle School’s technology teacher, being able to engage in the various sessions and talk to other educators and professionals to see what they are doing in their school, was the most rewarding part of the conference. “I appreciate hearing from a variety of speakers that share current trends, ideas, and practices as it relates to integrating technology in the classroom. The sessions I focused on were related to coding and programming. Giving students an opportunity to code goes beyond programming. When students code, they have the opportunity to be creative, critical thinkers and problem solvers. I always find this conference energizing and I am looking forward to trying some of the ideas I heard in my classroom and sharing them with other teachers,” said Hribar.
Roger Howard, the district’s curriculum and instruction director, found that the most important sessions were the ones regarding how other districts offer professional development, address the Common Core/ELA Speaking and Listening Standards, and engage students through various modes of technology. He also found the ODE presentations on state testing and meeting the new Career Advising requirements helpful. “In addition to hearing first-hand accounts of successful and researched-based instructional practices, I appreciate the opportunity to hear and ask questions of ODE staff members,” said Howard. “The conference is an excellent opportunity for staff members from our three buildings to collaborate, reflect on their practices, and bond.”
The conference featured a variety of innovative guest speakers. The keynote speaker for the first day of the conference was Education Chief Evangelist Jamie Casap from Google. Kevin Jakub, principal of Independence Middle School, found Casap’s speech to be informative as he emphasized the current advanced technology will be obsolete for current kindergarteners within three years. Casap also explained that Generation Z students have many new resources to get information from so they don’t wait to be taught. “The biggest take away from Casap’s speech is that we, as educators, need to promote learning that emphasizes application, evaluation and synthesis, not just the acquisition of knowledge.” Brooke Behrik, fourth grade teacher at Independence Primary School, also was engaged by Casap’s keynote presentation. “What I took away from this presentation was that we always should ask our students what problems they want to solve instead of asking them what they want to be when they grow up. This allows the students to be in control of their futures and ideas. Collaboration is also key. We do it as adults all the time and so will our students when they become adults in the real world. This is a skill we should continue working on with our learners.”
Laura Janosek, the school librarian and Independence High School, says it is always great to recharge and learn what is happening in education today, explore new technologies and discover ways to integrate them into the classrooms. Janosek enjoyed attending the “Fun, Formative Assessments” session where she learned interactive ways to create, engage and assess students. “In one of the sessions we learned that students will need 4 C’s to be successful: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking. As teachers, we need to evaluate how we are providing students the opportunities to practice the 4 C’s in our projects and lessons.”