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Teachers take on tech training

High school instructors learn the benefits of tech in the classroom
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Moodle, Wordle, Skype, and Jing don’t sound like words that mean innovative technology for teachers, but they are. All are free shareware programs available online that some savvy high school teachers just may be using come fall. Eighty teachers from the Placer Union High School District were recently introduced to these programs at two, two-day technology training sessions at Del Oro High School. “We can’t expect innovation and growth without giving our teachers the tools to do it,” said Jeff Tooker, assistant district superintendent. Tooker said normally the district offers weeklong workshops during the summer for teacher education, but with budget cuts they were only able to offer a two-day workshop. He said technology was chosen as one area where teacher education can make a difference. “Today’s teenagers are digital natives. We’re trying to find more ways to engage them,” Tooker said. Del Oro English teacher Dylan Holcomb said he uses the latest in technology to make learning more interactive. He uses a web camera to record himself while grading and commenting on students’ essays. He posts the video clips on his website and makes only marks on the papers. Papers are then returned to the students who then must view the video and jot down the explanations given for the marks. “I may not have five minutes to explain the grades to each student, but this way I know they understand what they did wrong and what they can improve on,” Holcomb told teachers during training. Holcomb explained to teachers how they could use Jing, a program that records a computer screen, and a podcast, a media file distributed over the Internet, to engage students. Kathy Meyers, district staff development coordinator, demonstrated how the attendees could use Wordle, a program that generates “word clouds” from text that users provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Meyers said they can be created and used to emphasize ideas or in English classes to break apart text. Mark Hayward has been a teacher at Del Oro for 35 years. “I’m one of the old-timers. I’m just taking baby steps. It’s hard, but I’m willing to give it a try,” Hayward said. Hayward confessed that he only began using e-mail two years ago. He said his students help him out when he gets in a pinch. “Now, I’m trying to get a web page with more than just my class schedule and course syllabus on it,” he said. Tooker explained, “We kind of lay it out there and the teachers choose what fills their need.” Tooker said as the district moves forward with technology, they are trying to go paperless, as well. He said last year Del Oro saved $4,000 and 100 boxes of paper by converting traditional printed content, such as syllabuses, to documents available on teacher websites. “Our hope is to someday do it all digitally,” Tooker said.