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Highland teachers go back to class for #learning

Posted by Jacqui Adams on

Taken from Chicago Tribune

fth-graders, poised and prepared, took over the teaching duties this week to explain the intimidating new world of social media and apps to Highland's elementary teachers.

Beginning with the Twitter realm of the hashtag -- #iTransform #STOH #Highland4Tomorrow -- the three-hour EdTech Conference iTransform 2016 brought staff from Johnston, Merkley and Southridge elementary schools to Warren Elementary School on Wednesday for a jam-packed 90 minutes of digital discovery.

The session offered hands-on opportunities to use the tools teachers will have available in their own classrooms in August when all elementary schools will begin one-to-one computing using iPads as part of the district's $1.8 million technology investment.

And who better to teach the teachers than the pupils, many of whom are already familiar with the tools.

"I can't believe how great these students are. They really know their stuff," said Donna Polites, third-grade teacher at Johnston. "The things I signed up for today are things I saw used in other schools."

J.J. Boylan, Warren's principal, called the event a professional learning opportunity as well as a way to celebrate the year-long journey to "transform the way we teach and the way our students learn in the School Town of Highland."

But Boylan wasn't in the group seeing the tools in action for the first time.

He and Nora Kasprzycki, coordinator of instructional technology, attended training at Apple in Cupertino, Calif., and are Apple Foundation Trainers.

It was the first taste of Twitter and other digital apps for many. Though the atmosphere was filled with fun, the teachers were serious students in search of practical uses for the technology.

In workshop settings and working mainly in pairs, the 19 student ambassadors guided their adult students and offered simple explanations and demonstrations.

Carly Zuklin and Kylie Tratta introduced a roomful of adults to iMovie. The girls said they use iMovie for science projects or videos for some assignments. The videos are posted to the school's YouTube Channel and Twitter feed for other students to view. Students can also make public service announcements to be broadcast to the school.

Teachers took part in workshops on how to use Pinterest in the classroom, white board tools Show Me and Doceri and Kahoot!, a game-based system that incorporates multiple choice questions, videos, images and diagrams. Other workshops available included digital citizenship and an overview of iPad uses for kindergarten and first grade.

The commons area was set up industry trade-show style with display booths.

Many attendees wanted to try Sphero Robotic Ball. The technology is most recently known for its role as BB-8, the droid in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," according to Reagan Vernengo, the fifth-grade ambassador at the Sphero booth.

"Sphero is a robot designed as a toy and educators have found ways to incorporate it into their curriculum so kids can learn code," said Boylan, who has been influential in the district's move to one-to-one computing as Warren has been the district's pilot school.

Boylan said another seven or eight days of instruction and information will be provided to interested teachers during the summer months.

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