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Area educators keeping up with the times

By Staff | Aug 7, 2015

More than 70 teachers were in attendance Aug. 3 and 4 at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Shepherdstown for a math and literacy-focused professional development K-12 seminar, hosted by Discovery Education.

Offered at no cost, these courses, “Literacy and the Standards in a Digital World” and “Teaching and Assessing Math in a Digital World”, support educators from Jefferson and Berkeley county schools and surrounding districts with innovative, instructional practices and assessment strategies to encourage the development of students’ mathematical and literacy skills in preparation for college, careers and citizenship.

“This program is about digital integration in the classroom,” said Johnna Weller, Discovery Education’s director of professional development. “Participants [in the seminar] get to experience web tools to help promote deeper thinking and higher level experiences in the classroom.”

“We also like to connect educators with one another,” said Max Brooks, education partnership manager at Discovery Education. “This really brings a sense of community.”

Jefferson County Schools has partnered with Discovery Education since 2008 to provide its students and educators with dynamic digital resources that are immersive and engaging. They currently use Discovery Education Streaming PLUS , a comprehensive digital library of more than 200,000 standards-aligned learning resources for grades K-12 including instructional videos, skill builders, writing prompts, multimedia activities, articles and more.

All state standard-aligned content can be altered to custom curriculum, and supports classroom instruction, regardless of the technology platform.

“There are a lot of challenges for teachers today,” stated Weller, “but this is also an exciting time because we have so many resources available to meet the students’ needs.”

With topics on the agenda such as, “evidence based reading and writing,” “close reading of complex texts” and “engaging students in in ownership of their learning,” the aim of the literacy development seminar was to equip students to be digitally literate as discerning readers, critical thinkers and skilled producers of information.

Kaitlan Ballantine, a teacher at Driswood Elementary School in Jefferson County, said, “I definitely learned a lot about different tools to motivate students and encourage total participation through technology. We are competing against the technology that’s in kids’ lives every day. This will make learning more fun for them.”

“We’ve been given information about utilizing tools to engage kids who don’t usually participate [in the classroom],” added Joan Wynkoop, teacher at Page Jackson Elementary School.

Among topics discussed in the math program were “Qualities of Effective Digital Integration,” “Involving Students in Their Learning” and “What do mathematical practices look like in the classroom?”. All of these were designed to offer educators tools to develop students as deep mathematical thinkers, problem solvers and to help students reach higher levels of math achievement.

“My favorite tool so far was ‘Plickers,'” said Janica Spies, 6th grade math teacher at Shepherdstown Middle School. “You scan the kid’s answers with a QR reader. It’s a similar concept as other remote device programs, but this one seems quicker and more accurate.”

Jennifer Pownell, a 7thgrade math teacher at Shepherdstown Middle said, “I definitely found tools I can use in the classroom. In addition to the ‘Plickers’, we learned ways to organize our favorite [classroom] websites in a format where they all look like apps. The kids find that more interesting than clicking on links.”

“I’m so impressed with these teachers,” stated Weller. “They are here sacrificing time out of their summer to help make a better future for their students.”