ITTIP STEM Summit Event: Using Technology to Improve Teaching – Not Just Tech for Tech’s Sake

On Monday, January 24th, 2022, the Institute for Teaching Through Technology and Innovative Practices (ITTIP) hosted a summit for Longwood’s seniors in the teacher preparation programs who are about to begin their journeys into student teaching in a few short weeks. The summit, Using Technology to Improve Teaching: Not Just Tech, for Tech’s Sake, focused on informing aspiring teachers on various ways technology can and should be used to enable positive student outcomes and learning experiences that foster 21st century learning skills.

The keynote speaker was Ms. Alice Keeler, a high school mathematics teacher, author, and expert in educational technology integration and virtual learning. Ms. Keeler stressed the importance of using technology within the classroom to engage and bring learners together. “Teach students, not content”. She discussed how technology can give every student a voice in the classroom and engages students in the information being taught. “Active student engagement is better than lectures,” explained Ms. Keeler. She stated that all instruction should be student centered and reflect the needs of each student while using technology experiences that foster the skills they will need to succeed.

Dr. Stephanie Playton, ITTIP STEM Specialist, introduced a collaborative research project in partnership with Nottoway Public Schools to help bring STEM career awareness and interest to grades 2-4. The project brought virtual STEM career experts to classrooms to connect science content to real-life learning context and allowed young learners to ask questions and lead the learning experiences. Dr. Playton introduced Ms. Leslie Badger, a second-grade teacher in Nottoway Public Schools, to give a view from her classroom and the positive outcomes this had on aspirations, awareness, and interests in STEM. Ms. Badger shared some of the student specific outcomes from her class interacting with scientists and professionals and explained that students were more engaged during class due to the real-world connections.

Ms. Melanie Ranson, a gifted resource teacher with Appomattox County Public Schools, values creating authentic learning opportunities within the classroom. Ms. Ranson shared Mystery Skype, where students in the classroom connect to students in another classroom anywhere around the world. Participants on each side of the classroom camera work together to ask ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions about the mystery location until both groups identify the virtual locations. Audience members participated in Mystery Skype, and it was a hit! When asked what stood out to them during the summit, Ms. Ranson’s activity was mentioned frequently.

Mrs. Jean Weller and Ms. Keisha Tennessee from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) spoke next. Ms. Weller, the Educational Technology Specialist for VDOE, shared the website #GoOpenVA, a platform used to share and remix Openly-licensed Educational Resources for teachers to use to create deeper engagement in the classroom. Ms. Tennessee, Computer Science Coordinator for VDOE, gave an overview of the Virginia Computer Science Standards of Learning and ideas on how to integrate them into core subject lessons.

Ms. Bea Leiderman, Instructional Technology Innovation Specialist with Prince Edward County Public Schools, shared ways to connect and work with the Instructional Technology Resource Teachers (ITRTs) in the field. She suggested that collaborating with ITRTs can help teachers create innovative and engaging lessons where students are the creators of the content.

By the end of the seminar, students had learned many examples of ways they can use technology to bring their lessons to life, and how they can work with others to think outside of the box. At the end of the summit, the future teachers shared what they learned at the event as well as what they would bring into their own classrooms.

Guest Authorship

Callie Williams is a Richmond, Virginia native and Longwood University student. Ms. Williams is currently in Longwood’s Reading, Literacy, and Learning graduate program and is planning to be an elementary teacher upon graduation in May 2022. In their spare time, they enjoy spending time with friends.