MIDDLETOWN — Teachers have to be as down with technology as the kids in their classrooms.And that in part was the motivation for Middletown’s high and middle schools to conduct a month long program encouraging teachers to incorporate digital technology in classroom instruction.Jill Takacs, the district’s assistance superintendent for curriculum and instruction, explained that Feb. 1 was the National Digital Learning Day, and the administration thought it would be a good idea to expand it for the entire month, to encourage the faculty to use various types of technology as “a vehicle for learning” and “not just using technology for technology’s sake.”“The most powerful way of learning is to learn from each other,” Takacs said, explaining the instructors would use the available tools to have students work on a various projects that relied on the technology. Teachers had students use websites and computers to post videos on local history lessons, with science classes using available online resources to better understand what makes hurricanes and used that information to communicate it to other students; and art classes created online art galleries to display students’ work.
To sweeten the pot for teachers to adopt some of these practices, the district established a raffle, where every time a teacher took one of the daily tech challenges and blogged about it, the teacher’s name was entered into the drawing. Some teachers, Takacs explained, had as many as 23 entries.
The gifts ranged from T-shirts, mouse pads and gift cards, up to the grand prizes of two iPads (one for a middle school and one for a high school teacher), with the understanding the prizes are intended for the teachers’ and their classrooms, according to Takacs.
Last Thursday teachers and their students gathered at Middletown High School South, 900 Nut Swamp Road, in the cafeteria, where students from the two high schools and three middle schools presented their projects and teachers were awarded their prizes.
Lynn McGimpsey, a High School North biology teacher, was the lucky winner of one of the iPads. She noted “I use technology in the classroom daily,” but then some teachers are more inclined to use it than others. McGimpsey also acknowledged that her students “taught me things.”
“The technology is just another whole phase,” to be used to get the message across, she explained. “And they love it,” she added, referring to the students.
“A lot of kids our age, obviously, use technology, use it socially,” observed Matthew Gray, a 15-year-old High School South student, who also noted, “I think it’s a much more interesting way to learn.”Matthew and others in the class created a video using the Animoto website, allowing students to incorporate text, digital video and images. “It’s much better than just using the chalkboard or writing an essay,” he said. The district is encouraging teachers in the primary schools to take the digital challenge as well, to adopt additional techniques into their lessons, Takacs said. “We’re hoping to have every teacher try something new that will improve education throughout the district,” she said.