University City

February 1, 2013

‘Digi’ day at Vance brings new technology to teachers, students

On Wednesday, the students at Vance High School will be “getting digi with it,” Assistant Principal Kim Andrews said.

On Wednesday, the students at Vance High School will be “getting digi with it,” Assistant Principal Kim Andrews said.

They’ll use different avenues of technology and social media in the classroom to celebrate Digital Learning Day.

The national event is sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education in an effort to encourage teachers to integrate technology in lesson plans to make students more tech-savvy and media literate.

Andrews said she got an email about the event from the district office, and her interest was piqued.

“I looked into it and thought to myself, you know, these are good opportunities for our teachers and our students to take a chance with technology and not have it be a scary thing,” she said.

Some teachers have already embraced integrating technology in the classroom at Vance.

For Sara Perkins, teaching Spanish today looks a lot different than it did more than 20 years ago.

“It used to be book work, workbooks, very much distant learning with foreign language,” Perkins said. “Now with technology like YouTube or a virtual visit to the Prado museum in Spain, we can bring the real world into the foreign-language classroom.”

For Wednesday, Vance’s technology facilitator, Jeremy White, has been working with a committee of staff members to help teachers figure out how to use technology in new and interesting ways.

He said he thinks teachers will have to adapt to the use of new tools on the Internet to keep afloat.

“Ten years ago, the teacher was the smartest person in the classroom,” he said. “Now the student has the ability to be the smartest. If you don’t embrace it (technology), you might lose control of it. It’s a little intimidating.”

To make the Web less imposing, Vance uses an online program called Gaggle, which offers several features including online calendars and homework help centers and allows students to have active discussion boards on class topics.

“Students are responding very well to it,” White said.

Andrews said she also expects Wednesday’s event will help students better understand social media websites, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and how to use them to their advantage.

For Digital Learning Day, Perkins has several plans. She said one of them is to encourage students to participate by giving them points by clicking on their personal avatars on a website she uses.

She said the digital age has transformed her teaching methods.

“It’s taught me to be a lifelong learner,” Perkins said. “It’s gotten me out of my old ways, it’s gotten me out of the box – I’m moving forward, and my students are growing and learning the language, more so than just textbook learning.”

And White said these opportunities for expanded knowledge of technology in the classroom couldn’t be given to a better school.

“I’ve been teaching at Vance for the last five years, and for every horror story you hear about Vance, you miss about 10 great stories about these students,” he said. “The students are so very awesome.”

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