Coweta Tech Summit: Educators share technology uses
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
While Coweta County schools have weathered the budget storms plaguing other Georgia districts, getting the most out of resources already in place remains a priority for local school officials.
Bringing teachers, administrators and other staff up to speed on new and expanded uses for programs and devices as well as further exploring the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) incentive gave rise to the first Coweta Tech Summit, held recently at the Centre for the Performing and Visual Arts.
“The Coweta County Board of Education has always supported innovation in classrooms,” said Coweta Superintendent of Schools Steve Barker. “The technology forum provided our teachers and administrators an excellent opportunity to expand their instructional techniques through technology innovation.”
The Tech Summit included more than a dozen teachers, administrators, staff and other presenters sharing ideas in a conference format. Approximately 250 educators put in an unpaid day of work to attend sessions such as The One iPad Classroom, Tech Lessons for Admins and Using Tech to Bring the Experts to Your Classroom.
“The fact that over 250 certified staff came out for a full day of training – well before the start of the school year and on their own time – demonstrates a real dedication to innovation and instructional improvement,” Barker said. “It also says a great deal about the quality of the program and presenters.”
Expanding technology in the classroom can be as simple as using existing devices in a new way, White said.
“This year, there will be at least one classroom at every school using the BYOT model,” he said. “The whole idea is to leverage what students already have. A lot of students already have devices, and they are going to bring them to school whether we want them to or not, so we might as well use them. The teachers we have had working on it already have said it’s been fantastic. The problems were minimal but they were ones they were dealing with already.
That experience, shared in a conference format, is a valuable resource White wanted to utilize.
“We knew we needed to make BYOT successful,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we had this session for Coweta County teachers by Coweta County teachers, to showcase the good things going on across the county. We wanted to show them by having other folks in the same situation with the same technology being successful share the good and bad experiences. That was the focus, to show what can be done and be effective, even with limitations.”
White said he hopes to develop what he calls “support groups,” a network that goes beyond the 17 sessions offered at this year’s Tech Summit.
“What we’ve found is that people were doing great things in individual little pockets,” he said. “The idea was we wanted to spread that around and make connections. Teachers tell us it is so hard because they’re paddling as fast as they can, and even though they want to do more things with their students they don’t want to have to break new ground. Someone who has been there and done that can prevent some of the pitfalls.
Although White had the full blessing of the school system, it was clear no funds were available to support the event. After a few calls to local businesses and Centre staff, White had most of what he needed in place. He praised the community’s support of schools and teachers, who enjoyed a lunch provided by NuLink and drinks provided by Buffalo Rock and were eligible for prizes such as an iPad donated by SouthTowne and an iPod Touch donated by Yamaha.
But in the end, it’s the students who will benefit most as teachers are able to invest more time in their classes and less in jumping through hoops to meet technology standards.
“The majority of teachers I know got into teaching because of the students,” White said. “Because of the way things are going, there are more requirements on teachers’ jobs, and they’re further and further away from the students. All we can do is try and take an approach that helps teachers spend more direct time with the students, to make them more efficient. When that happens, test scores go up and there are fewer discipline problems. I truly believe that is the ultimate goal.”
White said his plan is to make the Tech Summit the first in a “long line” of opportunities for teachers during the school year, including mini sessions on specific technology that will be recorded for later viewing. Tech Summit 2013 plans are already under way as well.