Southern Vt. Educators Symposium focuses on classroom tech


MANCHESTER -- Education is no longer exists in the realm of papers, pencils and books. Now, educators instruct using iPads and Youtube clips. On Friday, the changing landscape of technology and education was discussed at The Maple Street School's fifth Annual Southern Vermont Educators Symposium. This year's theme was BYOD -- Bring your Own Device.

Joy Stewart, eighth grade homeroom teacher and academic dean at Maple Street school started the conference as a way for teachers to collaborate.

"Vermont schools are. . so within the walls of our own schools," she said.

"[At the symposium] we're able to spend a day with our colleagues." The keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Elizabeth Woods with the Shehendehowa school district. She spoke about institutional technology and how her district implemented these policies.

BYOD is a new in education, mostly because students already bring wireless technology to school, she said. There are worries that this can take away from education, but Woods said there should be a compelling reason for creating a BYOD policy.

"Leverage the capacity of technology to enhance the experience and achievement of our students," she said. "At the end of the day [we should, as educators, as ourselves], what do we need to do to give to he or she the things they need to go on to do fabulous things."

One of the ways BYOD can change school is make the experience of school time more engaging for students. Woods played a video clip that helps explain why technology in the classroom is important. Today's children are digital natives -- or they have grown up with technology from the start -- was a theme of the video.

"What we do in school should replicate what we do in the world," Woods said. "If we do not have our students replicating this in some way we become increasingly disconnected from our students."

However, for all the good of BYOD or any technological implementation, there are growing pains. Woods said schools and teachers need to be ready to answer parent questions, figure out creative solutions to any problems and share with each other. Teachers collaborating with each other is time well spent, Woods said.

During her speech, small groups of teachers broke out into small groups a few times to discusses different video clips or questions Woods posed. When asked what kinds of technology they want in their classrooms or what they already use, a group of teachers discussed apps they have students work with or their want of a Smart Board. A Smart Board is an interactive digital whiteboard. Many teachers said they would love to see more equal access to technology in all classrooms.

BYOD and technology also helps encompass all the ways a child can be smart.

"There is no one deemed body of knowledge that a child needs to go on to be bright," Woods said. "I don't think we need to limit ourselves to what constitutes a learned person." To help make any technology rollout easier on a school, Woods said to expand your bandwidth and pick one or two devices and move forward, because the technology will change. Then, the school can choose to augment any tech roll out with a BYOD policy. She said a good way to approach BYOD is to see it not as a demand, but as a suggestions.

"If you have a device, mom and dad will let you bring it to school and the teacher wants it, please, feel free to bring it," she said.

Even with all the changes in technology, apps being used in the classroom and BYOD policies, there is still a time and place for technology, Woods said.

"Sometimes, it's best to put it away," she said.


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