With back-to-school sales in full swing, once again we all face a time of excitement, anticipation and albeit, some anxiety. The new year rings in for students and teachers and those of us who work on academic calendars in September. Technologies and distance learning may change that someday, but for now, the basic framework remains in place. But new technologies are changing the shape of our classrooms and teachers are challenging themselves to learn new tricks of the trade.
In July 2012, ten mentor teachers attended a SmartBoard boot camp at Lehman that my colleague, Naliza Sadik, and I led. Mentor teachers are experienced K-12 public school teachers who share their expertise, open their classrooms and take responsibility for supervising our student teachers. For three years we have been offering SmartBoard workshops to our School of Education students, but this year we had an unusual opportunity to open our lab to a small pilot group of mentor teachers. Interactive white boards (touch screens that are connected to computers) have replaced blackboards and chalk in many schools. Used well, they offer more dynamic ways to engage students in a class lesson. In the School of Education, we use the board designed by SMART Technologies, thus SmartBoards (but many other interactive white boards are available on the market).
I was impressed by the creative ideas our mentor teachers incorporated into their final lessons and the dedication they had to their grade level and content area. To help 2nd graders focus on the importance of being a good citizen in the school community, Francine Trapani, created an interactive lesson that required the students to brainstorm "put up" and "put down" characteristics. More importantly, students will need to reflect on the statements by moving them into or outside the stick-figure character, all the while discussing personal code.
My goal is to not only teach a new technology skill, but to help participants reflect on how utilizing an interactive whiteboard might improve their lesson and benefit learning outcomes.
I want to wish all teachers and students the very best in preparing for and starting the 2012 – 2013 year! But I especially want to encourage those of you who learned a new technology skill this summer (including our small group of mentor teachers!), to be purposeful and patient in using the skill next year.
Here are a few of their comments to remind all of us to keep the enthusiasm going even when the going gets tough:
“I am very happy that I attended your SmartBoard worshop. It was great to be able to apply what we learned. I am less apprehensive and I love the possibilities it provides to teachers. I can't wait to make my lessons more lively.”
“Workshops like these make it possible for even the most technology challenged/disadvantaged teacher to feel comfortable and not intimidated by the SmartBoard.”
“I really appreciated having the opportunity to have an extended orientation to the Smartboard and be able to work on a meaningful project that I will be able to use next year. As with learning anything that is new, I felt the constraints of time. I do realize that I will have to spend many hours of continued hard work, in order to fully grasp the potential of this wonderful tool.”