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Daylong UCPS technology camp targets elementary teachers

Promethean representatives from left, Leslie Lowe, Susan Moll and Matt Barfield, demonstrate the Promethean ActivBoards and its versatility in the ActivClassroom bus, which travels across the United States for demonstration purposes.

In order to thoroughly prepare students for the digital age they now live in, teachers have to use innovative technology that will not only educate, but also keep students engaged.

“We talk about our kids being digital natives. Our children are growing up that way,” said David Kafitz, the executive director of Union County Public Schools Technology Services. “You have to figure out how to engage them because writing on an overhead with markers is not engaging to them anymore, not when they go home and interact with gaming systems and touch technology on handheld devices.”

After about six months of planning, UCPS Technology Services and Promethean held a daylong conference at Sandy Ridge Elementary School where elementary teachers were given the opportunity to learn, create and become rejuvenated for the upcoming school year. The event, held Monday (Aug. 8, 2011), was dubbed Camp Inspire.

Inspiration for the conference’s name came in part from the name of the software being taught. “It’s called Camp Inspire because Promethean’s software product is called Promethean ActivInspire,” said event organizer, Susie Austin, the UCPS lead instructional technology specialist. “Everything that is being presented today either has to do with the software or the smart boards.”

The event was designed for beginners, intermediate and advanced users of the Promethean Board, a relatively new interactive-board technology currently being used in many UCPS classrooms.

“It’s not your traditional classroom any more,” said Debbie Onufer, a fifth-grade teacher from New Town Elementary School. “It’s not just us standing up there teaching. We’re standing up there instructing and they’re actually discovering what they need to learn through the use of that smart board. They’re interacting and moving things around on the screen.”

Promethean technology allows the teacher and the students to touch and interact with the white board, allowing then to manipulate the computer and the programs that are running on it. With a Promethean Board, the teacher can do anything from bringing up a virtual ruler or showing a video, to creating flashcards and utilizing Google Earth.

Onufer said she has been using a mobile Promethean Board at New Town Elementary, but this school year she will actually have one in her classroom. “It’s very exciting. It will make things so much easier. It’s going to be right there. I can create the lessons that I want and have them ready for the children because now it’s in my room and I will have access to it any time for any lesson I want to teach.”

Susan Ahlstrom, a fifth-grade teacher at Sardis Elementary, said she doesn’t have a Promethean Board in her classroom, but “fell in love” with the technology when she used her school’s portable unit last school year.

“I was really unclear about how to do some of the things I wanted to do, so today has been great for me,” Ahlstrom said. “Now I feel that I will be so much more comfortable and so much more creative than I’ve been before. Using the Promethean Board last year made science come alive for my kids and their understanding really grew based on using the Promethean Board.”

Promethean representatives also brought its high tech “Active Bus USA” to show the advances in interactive technology and what a classroom could look like when using advanced technology.

Another treat for teachers, Sandy Ridge Elementary School was wireless school-wide so teachers could utilize their laptops anywhere in the building. Kafitz said UCPS middle and high schools are currently working on becoming wireless, while all UCPS elementary schools are slated to become totally wireless by January 2012.

“Wireless technology allows students to have laptops in the classrooms instead of wired desktops that stay static in the back of the room,” Kafitz said. “Students won’t have to go to the computer center any more. They can just grab a laptop and go sit at a desk and do small group projects. The teacher can go get the laptop cart and students can just spread out around their classroom and work.”

Camp Inspire also offered a special session for elementary school principals and assistant principals on how to better support their staff with the integration of Promethean products into instruction.

Organizers, realizing that teachers are still on summer break, had hoped that at least 70 participants would sign up for the summer conference. They were thrilled when 290 signed up to attend.

“I was just blown away at the response, given that it’s the height of summer,” Kafitz said. “It shows the caliber of educators we have – that they would take time out of their summer vacation to come in and learn how to better utilize the technology that they have in the classroom now or that they will have in their classroom one day.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Aug 10, 2011 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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