Educators in Shelby County and nearby districts experienced the speed dating version of professional development during the third annual Edtech Share Fair in March.
Adam Watson, Shelby County’s digital learning coordinator, organized the event, which features 10 presentations on technology use in classrooms. Each presentation lasts 10 minutes and is offered five times, giving attendees the opportunity to hear a little about several different topics.
Watson said the format gives educators “just enough to whet your appetite. It starts getting you to think how that tool could work in your classroom and it doesn’t seem to overwhelm you.”
Southside Elementary teachers Lora Griffin, left, and Tiffany Roberts, center, talk with Heritage Elementary librarian Penny Bland during Shelby County’s Edtech Share Fair. Bland made a presentation about Bee Bots, which young students can use to practice coding.
The presenters are encouraged to talk about the technology tool for five minutes, followed by five minutes of questions and discussion.
Watson said the feedback has been positive and everyone likes the speed and energy the event provides. “They like that it’s impromptu, short-burst (professional development) as opposed to the typical death-by-PowerPoint kind of experience,” he said.
The topics were presented by Shelby County teachers with one session led by students (see story on page 13). Several Shelby County teachers were joined by educators from other districts to hear about the technology.
“Powerful professional learning”
Jennifer Gilbert, an instructional coach at New Castle Elementary in Henry County Schools, was one of five educators from the school to attend the Share Fair. Gilbert and the teachers she works with are working on blended learning and technology in the classroom.
“With our state growing significantly one-to-one, I think it’s huge to network and collaborate within districts and with neighboring districts,” she said. “Henry County is planning on rolling out a one-to-one initiative next year for technology, so for us we were able to go and learn some different tips and tools that we’re able to implement.”
The event is free, which Gilbert said was an important factor because the sessions were led by teachers and not by “administrators or someone selling a product.”
“These are all teacher leaders who are using these tools in their classrooms so you automatically have buy in and credibility built between classroom teachers,” she said. “I don’t think you can get more powerful professional learning that that.”
Christie Turbeville, a technology integration specialist for Bullitt County Schools, like the format of the event.
“It’s great because you can just get a little flash of something, they give you just a little information and then you can investigate it, and then if you want to look into it further or bring it back to your district,” she said.
Turbeville said she would like to see more educators from her district attend Shelby County’s Edtech Share Fair in the future and for Bullitt County to have a similar event.
“(I would) encourage them either to come and/or try to do it with the elementaries in our county,” she said. “I think our elementaries would really benefit from something like this. It’s apps and different things that they can really use in their classrooms.”
Gilbert agreed that the model could be replicated in her district.
“I would love for our teachers to adopt this model. Not only to build capacity between schools and teachers but I would love it, too, if it were open to the community where some community people could come in and kind of see the different things teachers are using with their students in their classrooms,” she said. “I think it’s a way to open doors not only between teachers but also the community.”
“Building a network of educators”
James Wampler, a science teacher at Shelby County East Middle School and one of the presenters, said one of the benefits of the Shelby County event is that with teachers talking to other teachers “you can share real experiences in the classroom.”
“The idea being if you have something really cool going on here, hopefully you can share that and they can bring it to where they’re going. As people put their own perspective on the learning, you’ll see it change and morph into really cool things, and when it comes back to you it might be completely different,” Wampler said. “It’s all about building a network of educators that can share ideas and change things for students.”
Wampler, who was selected as PBS Digital Innovator for Kentucky in 2016, said the Share Fair is also helpful to the presenters. “We’re dealing with our own perspective of saying this is how it’s done, (but) you might learn something new from somebody else with a question they ask, saying ‘Can you do it this way?’”
Maddie Shepard, who teaches fourth- and fifth-graders at Shelby County’s Southside Elementary, said presenters try to choose topics that would appeal to a wide range of educators.
“That is for me a criteria for choosing the technology to present is who’s it going to benefit, because we do have a diverse population of teachers that come for these types of developments,” she said.
Shepard, who has been a presenter for all three years of the Edtech Share Fair, said with new technology tools hitting the market frequently, hearing from someone who is using the technology is a good way for educators to “sift through the next best thing” because they’re hearing about it from a professional.
“The goal is for all kids to be proficient and all kids to learn and all kids to develop a lifelong yearn for learning, so inviting other counties to see what we’re doing that’s been successful is only beneficial to those students that they teach back in their classrooms,” Shepard said. “I think it’s kind of a roundabout way of helping other teachers, but also helping other students, too.”