Some arrived tech-savvy, some came tech-adequate, but after two weeks of intensive training at the Krause Center for Innovation, teachers who attended the Making Education Relevant and Interactive Through Technology program, all left tech-inspired.
“I took roll on the computer,” says Dolly Sandoval about how much technology she used in her classroom previous to attending MERIT.
Others who had never made a video walked away with the knowledge of not only how to make one, but how to make it into a lesson that can be captivating and entertaining.
Now she’s excited about implementing in her classroom what she’s learned so far, she says.
MERIT is a one-year program for educators of grades 4 through 12 that teaches teachers how to best utilize and integrate innovative technology in the classroom, using anything from Prezi, a free web-based zoom presentation program to creating 90-second videos to augment a lesson.
Sandoval—a former Cupertino mayor and city councilwoman who teaches math at Los Gatos High School—was one of about 50 educators who came mostly from the Bay Area for the 60-hour Summer Institute at KCI located on the campus of Foothill College.
“It’s a yearlong program. They will come back and meet periodically through next spring,” says Liane Freeman, director of strategic planning at KCI. “They will do follow-on work with each other, and support how they are using technology in their classroom.”
One Los Altos School District teacher participating was Kami Thordarson, who teaches 5th grade at Santa Rita Elementary School.
Though some of the teachers arrive as individuals from their respective schools, they leave the Summer Institute with a network of contacts, shared ideas, and in Sandoval’s case, a teaching partner of sorts.
Karen Larson teaches 8th grade math at St. Mary’s School in Los Gatos, a feeder school for Sandoval at Los Gatos High. The pair learned about Comic Life, a program that allows users to create posters, which Sandoval plans to incorporate in her lesson plan so students can make career posters.
Using graphics such as thought bubbles, comic characters and digital photos, Sandoval hopes to make it fun for those students who ask “why” they need to learn math and fail to see how it may apply to their career interests.
They’ll interview people in the workplace and uncover how math is used in that role.
“It will help them learn how they will utilize math in a future career,” she says.
On July 29, the closing day of the Summer Institute, the teachers shared with the group a presentation of at least one way in which they plan to integrate technology in their lesson plans.
Adriana Reyes for example, a teacher at Graham Middle School in Mountain View, says students in her 8th-grade classroom will select a book that had once been banned, such as Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, and create a book campaign, a digital argument, for why the book should—or should not—be banned.
Because some of her students come from low socio-economic households Reyes turned her attention to free web-based tools.
“Access to technology was at the forefront of my planning,” she says.
In Palo Alto, Jordan Middle School teachers Bonnie Lake and Megan Ellis, will take over the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program in the fall.
AVID students will develop a digital portfolio over the course of the year starting with creating an avatar and introduction video of themselves.
“We’ll do this at the beginning of the year then at the end of the school year they’ll go back and look at it again and reflect on how they’ve changed,” Lake says.
What it all comes down to is keeping teachers energized about teaching, finding new ways to keep students interested and engaged, says Diane Main, and using innovative technology can do that.
Main, a MERIT instructor, is the educational technologist at Milpitas Christian School. Though she’s more than just tech-savvy, Main still walked away with learning a thing or two herself, she says.
“It’s all about staying excited and showing kids that learning can be fun,” Main says.