Moodle. Ning. Dimdim.
These online applications may sound like a foreign language, but 90 teachers from across the state are gathering at Lakeview Academy’s Summer Technology Institute this week to make sense of such teaching tools.
Connie White, Lakeview’s technology and media director, is leading the institute through its sixth year. She said the goal of the institute is to help teachers learn the technology they need to connect with their students and re-energize their classrooms.
“We’re going to move toward the students we teach. We’re going to move closer to where they are,” White said. “We are going to become better prepared to help them move out of the classroom and into the world as a 21st century citizens.”
Nearly 20 years ago, White was a physics teacher at a high school in Shelby, N.C. In an effort to get her students’ test scores up, she infused multimedia technology into her classroom and saw scores skyrocket. At Lakeview, she’s put her approach into action and is sharing her resources with other teachers who are attending the institute.
Through online course management system’s like Moodle, interest-oriented social networks like Ning and web conference sites like Dimdim, private school teachers at the two-day institute are learning ways they can keep their students plugged in and powered on during the school day. Not only do online tools like blogs, podcasts and wikis keep students interested in subject material, but it prepares them to move into the real world, where multimedia communication skills win jobs, White said.
“The information age is over,” she said. “The person who hordes information is no longer valuable or desired. It is the person who collaborates, shares and helps make meaning of the information that is now valuable.”
White said, however, the goal is not to have students focus on technology, but for teachers to seamlessly integrate technology into English, math, physics, foreign language and history classes.
Crystal Beach, a new English teacher at Lakeview Academy who has a teaching blog with about 1,000 followers, taught a blogging class at the institute. She said blogging is helpful in engaging students in subject material as well as in establishing forums for teachers to share innovative teaching strategies, useful Web sites or online applications.
Beach said the institute is an opportunity for teachers to catch up to their students technologically, and to learn the skills needed to lead their students into the modern job market. She said the institute is a place where teachers can feel comfortable about asking questions and asking for one-on-one help.
Olga Jenkins and Joy Sloan, both Spanish teachers from Brookstone School in Columbus, are institute participants who said they’re grateful to have a setting in which they are flooded with the highlights of the many free online teaching tools they can put to use in their classrooms.
“We’re trying to understand this new instruction and we’re really trying to take back tools to get more teachers to use the technology that’s out there,” Sloan said. “We really don’t know what’s out there because we’re in the trenches doing what we’re doing. It’s great to have somebody to show us the best tools they’ve found.”
Jenkins said for her, learning about online teaching technology is like taking someone from the horse and buggy to the car.
“I can remember when a computer was the size of this room,” she said. “It’s amazing to me. It’s also neat to be a part of it. This is the type of thing that more educators need to be a part of.”
Jenkins said she intends to start a wiki, which is a collaborative Web site like Wikipedia, when she gets back to her school to better communicate with parents about what their children are learning.
After discovering wikis and blogs, Sloan said she hopes students will latch on to her new teaching style.
“Maybe they won’t be on Facebook all night long, they’ll be on our wikis,” she said. “It’s about getting them to do the work in a way that’s cool for them to do.”