With school back in session this week after the holidays, teachers throughout Churchill County School District are collaborating with other districts on best practices integrating technology in classrooms.
The Professional Development Day held Tuesday functioned differently than most; this time, elementary school teachers also were invited to observe available resources provided by featured guest speakers, such as Google Innovators and Nevada Ready 21, a program to help students develop modern, technological skills for success in school and careers.
Attendees included educators from Carson, Clark, Douglas, Humboldt and Storey counties.
“A lot of our staff were presenters and those seminars were full,” said Superintendent Sandra Sheldon. “It was peer-to-peer learning to encourage and allow our instructors to be more innovative.”
Churchill County High School Technology Coach Nathan Waite, said this will benefit students in the long run — especially if 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be self-employed by 2020, according to a study by Intuit.
“The world is changing quickly,” he said. “This will give students a chance to experience global challenges in the future, come from individual choices, and improve themselves. If we don’t give students modern opportunities, they will become disadvantaged.”
For eight hours, teachers divided into breakout sessions to review digital learning opportunities using Google Chrome, Apps, and educational computer programs supporting blended learning and problem solving. Teachers also explored tools to enhance organization, Google Educator Certifications, and student performance tracking from experts of the greater New York City area.
With dozens of workshops to choose for each hour, teachers of all grades expressed their enthusiasm to experiment the initiatives in their classrooms. Karl Marsh, science and Japanese instructor at CCHS, said the seminars helped prepare teachers for the current quarter of the school year; however, he hopes to more graduates from universities will teach in the future, as a part of the educational transition.
“Technology has its benefits and drawbacks,” said Marsh. “But within these next few days, we have help getting our feet wet and see how we can apply these ideas to our classes effectively.”
“It’s nice to learn expertise from peers and learn about the techniques,” said Shannon Windriver, a third grade teacher at E.C. Best Elementary. “It’s our biggest resource.”
Professional Development Strategist Chris Justus, who hosted a workshop on transforming lessons into active group assignments, said getting schools up to speed with the technological transition is a concern for the future.
But so far, it isn’t for Fallon.
“This town has an opportunity to do something special with their students,” he said. “With schools today, technology is advancing at a fast rate. We’ve moved the needle in 10 years but the education hasn’t. But in Fallon, there’s an opportunity.”
“Fallon is ahead of the wave,” said program manager Michael Malone. “The approach the district has puts them in a good, new position.”
One of the predominant keynote speakers based out of Texas, Kasey Bell, blogger and developer of educational resource platform Shake Up Learning, reminded CCSD although technology is a part of their students’ future, it should not be the sole, silver bullet for a classroom.
What matters is what students are doing with the devices and apps, she said.
“To say we’re in the 21st century is an overrated term,” she said. “You’re not teachers because of it. It’s about leveraging it and how technology is used it better educate students. We have to help students filter information and find reliability in it.”
Along with Naite and Sheldon, CCHS Director of Educational Services Kimi Melendy, Technology Coach Michelle Richardson, Churchill County Middle School Principal Amy Word, arranged workshops.