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Tour touts technology
Educators get acquainted with its uses
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Forsyth County News

Students at Little Mill Middle School had only been using their own technology tools in their classrooms since August.

Still, they had many features to show off on a recent Friday, when 150 educators visited their school and two other campuses as part of the second of three countywide Bring Your Own Technology tours.

Principal Connie McCrary said about 22 teachers in the school demonstrated various ways they use technology in the classroom.

“We’re not using technology just for technology’s sake,” she said. “It’s really about transforming instruction.

“Teachers at my school were at the beginning stages of seeing that happen because we’ve really only been doing BYOT since August. I think the students felt proud to show off what they’ve learned in just four short months.”

Before arriving at Little Mill, the group of teachers, principals, school board members and other educators from Georgia, Ohio and Kentucky stopped at North Forsyth High and Chestatee Elementary schools.

The visits gave them perspective on how technology is used at every grade level locally, said Jennifer Caracciolo, school system spokeswoman.

“They’re all coming from different levels of BYOT. Some haven’t implemented it yet, some are where we are … so for us too, it’s been a learning process because we’ve been able to have discussions and talk to them about what’s working for them,” Caracciolo said.

“We can keep the conversations going for teachers and pass along what works best.”

The system’s third and final tour will be held in April, said Caracciolo, adding that they’ve been so successful, a fourth tour day likely will be added next school year.

But first, the system will play host to “Breaking Barriers,” a three-day conference in March. As many as 300 people can sign up for the event, which goes beyond a tour.

The $250 offering, or $200 for in-state visitors, will show three different tracks — elementary, middle/high school and how technology is used for operations, including facilities, financing, human resources and the education board.

“Over the years, we’ve been getting a lot of requests to see how we operate in our district,” Caracciolo said. “So instead of our staff getting pulled out … we’ve decided to combine it and do it at one time and that way it will maximize our efficiency.”

At Chestatee Elementary, among the first to adopt the technology program schoolwide, Cassie Shoemaker said there were 27 classrooms with a different technology project going on. Some students were even creating their own technology, including Web sites.

“People were most impressed with students creating,” said Shoemaker, an instructional technology specialist. “Typically, you think a student is going to go to a Web site and they’re going to practice these skills. But most of our lessons were created around the students actually creating something. People were very impressed with that.”

While the school has embraced technology, Shoemaker said there’s still much to learn. That’s why Chestatee teachers have all spent time outside the school trying to bring in more ways to teach through technology.

“You only know what you know,” she said. “So if you’re not going out and seeing how other people are using technology and everything else that goes in the school, then you can’t grow professionally. Until you see it, you’re not truly going to grasp it.”

North Principal Beth Hebert, said QR codes, Skype, Twitter and other technology-driven learning has “changed the landscape of education and it’s happened so quickly.”

Five years ago, a high school classroom looked nothing like it does today. And in another five years, she said, it likely will be completely different than in 2012.

“It’s a changing landscape that just keeps changing daily. It’s just exciting,” she said. “We’ve used technology to keep up with it all. A lot of the professional development that we’re attending and that we’ll be redelivering incorporates the use of technology and even the use of social media as a means to give staff development to teachers.

“And everybody’s going through it. Even if you’re in a different country, you’re experiencing that change through technology in education.”