Geneva teachers extoll virtues of technology

Geneva teachers extoll virtues of technology

GENEVA – The Geneva District 304 school board approved a technology capital plan recently, but not before board members heard from teachers about how they use technology – and how important it is their teaching and student learning.

Elizabeth Peacock, the Acceleration and Enrichment teacher at Fabyan Elementary School, said technology fulfills one of the district’s goals to create “self-directed lifelong learners” during a presentation at a Jan. 13 school board meeting.

“To me ‘self-directed’ really means taking ownership of one’s own learning,” Peacock said.

One example Peacock uses is the platform OneNote to set up a context of activities, videos and simulations that students can engage with on their own.

One example was a student who created his own video game during participation in One Hour of Code – which introduces students to computer science.

“He took this he was self-directed, he ran with it and he finally created his own video game,” Peacock said. “It gave him a real-life interaction with being a complex and creative and interactive thinker.”

“I love this tool,” Peacock said. “I love it for them and I love it for me, because it’s a fantastic, informative assessment for me as well. I can really get a feel for what a student knows about a topic based on what they said.”

Peacock also uses MarketWatch, a stock market simulation for fifth grade students, which also relies on technology to aid them in making decisions that matter.

“They get $100,000 and we learn about the stock market,” Peacock said. “They need to look at a company’s past performance, a company’s past stock price, what market forces are at play right now, what current events even might be affecting the market and therefore affecting their portfolio.”

Lorrie Ruh, the Library Media Center director at Heartland Elementary School, said she uses technology to teach students about internet safety.

This involves creating strong passwords, how to use Google, private vs personal information, and predator and scammer awareness, Ruh said.

Other topics include cyber bullying – how to recognize it and fight it – digital etiquette and responsibility, Ruh said.

“We talk about how permanent those posts are online that future employers and future college applications can be affected by what you put on the content,” Ruh said.

Hallie McQueeny and Maggie Clarks, first grade teachers at Harrison Street School, said they use Bloomz, an app that makes it easy for staff, parents and students to communicate.

Clarks said it also functions in behavior management and showed a grid of eggs in various stages of being cracked.

“Each of the students has a little egg and they work to ‘crack’ their egg by earning points for learning behaviors,” Clarks said.

Encouraged behaviors that lead to egg cracking includes teamwork, working hard and participating in class, she said.

As their positive behaviors are noted and their eggs crack, parents are also notified, Clarks said, so they can continue that discussion at home.

Once the egg is completely cracked, a little monster hatches and they get to post it in their portfolio, Clarks said.

“The behavior management piece – this is a fun way for students to set goals for themselves and track when they are reaching those goals and earning rewards,” Clarks said.

The school board approved a technology capital plan for the 2020-21 budget year of nearly $1.023 million. But that amount would be offset by technology service fees and a grant, officials said.

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