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BOE Receives Technology Update

By Staff | Jun 21, 2017

The Wetzel County Board of Education, at its Monday, June 5 meeting, received an update from the schools’ technology integration specialists, Mary Young and Michelle Weekley.

The duo explained that through the past school year, they visited the county’s schools to see “what teachers needed and wanted,” in regards to the schools’ new technology opportunities, especially the “1:1 initiative” that provided each Wetzel County Schools student with his or her own device/laptop.

Young and Weekley helped to serve and promote the technology and technology tools. Teachers and students were given assistance in learning the new technology and its new software, along with advice on resources they can access electronically for learning.

Throughout the past school year, Young and Weekley advised teachers during common planning periods, met with teachers individually after school, and “whenever requested.”

“We could model a lesson and teach with them, because some of this technology was overwhelming,” Weekley explained. “We provided leadership with the 1:1 initiative, and the main thing is connecting standards to effective teaching.”

During the 1:1 initiative deployment, Young and Weekley visited the county’s schools and made sure the teachers had lists of usernames and passwords, as well as understood the logins for Microsoft.

The board was told that, previously, technology was “somewhere” students went, such as lining up to visit a school’s computer lab. Now, “it can all be truly integrated and connected,” Weekley explained.

“This isn’t a separate and isolated thing. The 1:1 initiative will help test scores, just by students being familiar with computers.”

Weekley explained that Young and herself had opportunities to receive certifications through Microsoft.

“We got some in-person training and September. We are now Microsoft Certified Educators We not only know what the technology and tools are, but we know how they fit, or don’t fit, in the classroom. Around February, we became Certified Educator Trainers for Microsoft.” Young explained that a major focus on the Technology Integration Specialists was “connecting the parents to the learning environment.”

“When parents are connected, they have an ownership. They know what the kids are doing in school, so we really set out to embrace the parents and teach them about Microsoft and the laptops.”

Young explained that multiple trainings, for parents and teachers, have been held throughout the year, and parents have learned “everything we have taught the kids.” She noted the endeavor would continue through next year as well.

Young added that a letter was sent home to parents, letting them know how many installations had been performed on thea child’s laptop/device, and “how to get on their computers.” Parents could also attend a special “Parent Night.”

Young and Weekley held a “New Teacher Academy.” During this program, the duo talked to new teachers about engagement, mostly with technology. Teachers were given a list of resources, and were able to discuss strategies and lining with state standards.

Young noted that, it was stressed to the teachers, that the technology is not to replace them. “It will make a great teacher better, if you utilize it.”

Furthermore, the kids learn about time management with the laptops. “you can’t just let kids have the laptops all the time.”

Teachers were also encouraged to find resources and informational texts, via their devices.

The following are just some of the programs students have been able to access in the 2016-2017 school year:

Microsoft Applications:

* Microsoft One Drive: Students and teachers can store files on their One Drive, which can then be accessed and shared (if wanted) anywhere by an electronic device.

* Microsoft One Note: As described by Microsoft, OneNote is a “digital notebook.” Users of OneNote can share their notes, class notes, and more. OneNote automatically saves and synchronizes notes. OneNote Class Notebook give students a personal workspace, a content library for handouts, and space for lessons and activities.

* Microsoft E-mail Accounts: Students, young and old, learned how to use Microsoft e-mail accounts. Younger students were taught that an e-mail is a professional document, which needs to include all specific parts of a letter, as well as proper grammar. Students used avatars, to protect their identities.

Older students learned about e-mail etiquette. It was noted that most students had never used e-mail before, which will be required by most college professors.

Other Electronic Programs:

* Carnegie Math – This provider of Math learning tools offers an online component. Students are able to access a curriculum-lined program. Students are able to ask for hints on the questions, and use a step-by-step problem. Teachers can also have students working on different types of problems. It was noted that this program can be “a little verbose,” but could prove to be helpful with the Smarter Balanced state examinations.

* Wonders Reading – Wonders is a English Language Arts program, via McGraw-Hill, for younger students. This reading curriculum offers “lots of online resources that students can access over the summer.” Wonders Reading

* TypingClub.com – Students can access this free, web-based program using their Office 365 accounts. Kids in second grade and above can learn how to place hands correctly on a keyboard. Kids can win awards and certificates, which motivates them to continue using the program. The program is very competitive.

* Prodigy Math – This Math website is free and is curriculum-based. Kids can compete against eachother. It was noted that kids do not know which level eachother is on. Fifth graders can play against first graders, without being aware of such.

* Breakout EDU – This platform requires players to use teamwork and critical thinking to solve challenging puzzles, to open a locked box or escape a “digital room.” Kids normally wait for the next direction, or for a teacher to explain the next step of a problem. Breakout EDU requires the students to think of that next step.

* Stormboard – This is an outlet for students to brainstorm and collaborate. After using the Breakout EDU program, students were able to post on this “online post-it note” how they felt about working as a group and unlocking the locks.

* Desmos – This is an online graphing calculator. The students receive immediate feedback as to whether they are answering the questions right or wrong. The teacher can also access the students’ screens and pinpoint misconceptions.

Weekley and Young noted that next year they hope to be more involved with URcast, which is a cache-in server. Schoolwork can be loaded onto a device at school and then be accessed at home, whether the student has Internet access or not.

“I’d like to say that I appreciate you ladies. I appreciate where you are taking this county,” Board Vice President Bill Jones said.

“We just finished four high school graduations a few days ago, and we got to see a lot of great things that are happening, and talk to a lot of the kids moving on, because Wetzel County prepared them. You guys are a large part of that, and I am looking for bigger and better things to happen. I think we are on the right track,” Jones said.

“We appreciate that no matter what we’ve asked, you have come through with it,” Young said.

Board President Warren Grace noted that the “1:1” initiative was established by the previous board. “I want to do everything we can do to support that,” he added. “If you come up with something we can do to help, I’d like to know,” Grace added.