Schuylkill Valley Innovation and Technology Day showcases how technology enhances education

Parents, business representatives and teachers from Berks County school districts observed how technology enhances education during Schuylkill Valley School District’s 2018 Innovation and Technology Day on April 4.
Parents, business representatives and teachers from Berks County school districts observed how technology enhances education during Schuylkill Valley School District’s 2018 Innovation and Technology Day on April 4. Lisa Mitchell - Digital First Media
During Schuylkill Valley School District’s 2018 Innovation and Technology Day on April 4, teachers from Kutztown, Daniel Boone, Tulpehocken, Muhlenberg, and Pine Grove Area school districts, as well as Berks County Intermediate Unit, sit in on a panel discussion by Schuylkill Valley students and teachers talking about how they use technology in their classrooms.
During Schuylkill Valley School District’s 2018 Innovation and Technology Day on April 4, teachers from Kutztown, Daniel Boone, Tulpehocken, Muhlenberg, and Pine Grove Area school districts, as well as Berks County Intermediate Unit, sit in on a panel discussion by Schuylkill Valley students and teachers talking about how they use technology in their classrooms. Lisa Mitchell - Digital First Media

Parents, business representatives and teachers from Berks County school districts observed how technology enhances education during Schuylkill Valley School District’s 2018 Innovation and Technology Day on April 4.

Those attending from local school districts included representatives from Kutztown, Daniel Boone, Tulpehocken, Muhlenberg, and Pine Grove Area, as well as Berks County Intermediate Unit. Schuylkill Valley students and teachers demonstrated how they use technology in their classrooms.

“This provides an opportunity for us to share with the community how we’re using technology in our schools and to work on providing that support and to build partnerships with both businesses and with other schools because I believe in sharing knowledge with others,” said Michael Billman, Schuylkill Valley Director of Instructional & Information Technology. “The event provides an opportunity for teachers that are doing great things to showcase what they’re doing.”

Tours included a visit to each of the school buildings to see technology used in the classroom, from advance placement computer science at the high school to computer programing and robotics at the elementary school Discover Learning Center. Much of the technology used are free Google Apps accessed via Chrome books. With the technology use in the classroom, there is an emphasis on team collaboration and communication.

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Even learning about the Dewey Decimal System is enhanced with the use of a free Google App. Library students used a green screen and the Do Ink App to create a video.

“The fourth graders are making commercials for the 3rd graders to learn about the Dewey Decimal System of the library. We use technology in the fact that they collaborated on the script using Google docs. We’re using the Do Ink App to create (the commercial) and the kids will watch it and we’ll push it out through Google Classroom to the third graders and they can watch each of the commercials,” said Schuylkill Valley Elementary librarian Stephanie Jacobs.

Using technology to learn about the Dewey Decimal System makes it more relevant, Jacobs said.

“They understand it. They introduce it to a new group of people and so the kids know where to go in the library to find books,” said Jacobs.

Schuylkill Valley PTO President Kelly Myers, an elementary school parent, said, “I’m excited to see how much the school district is integrating technology, especially nowadays when it’s so important. It seems like second nature to kids and the more we get them involved with it the better for society in general.”

Schuylkill Valley elementary school parent Matt Walborn said students today are doing so much more and believes they are getting more out of the high school experience than he did when he went to high school.

“I think that it is awesome to watch them working,” said Walborn. “It’s been eye opening to me and it makes me happy just to see how they’re using these resources and turning that into a better educational experience for the kids.”

Schuylkill Valley High School social studies teacher Megan French liked that the showcase gave students an opportunity to share their perspective on technology use in class.

“It really does seem like they are embracing it as much as we are,” said French, who uses Google Classroom which gives her students access to powerpoints, notes, assignment reminders and outside resources, as well as free Google Classroom Apps for collaboration and construction of presentations. “We’re going through training programs ourselves and trying to find new things for them. It does seem like they’re appreciating it and engaging with it.”

Schuylkill Valley High School junior Scott Horning spoke on the panel that included teachers and students, discussing the different uses of technology in the high school classroom, including Google Apps for Education and Chrome Books. He likes that it helps with organizational skills and allows him to access his school documents at home or at school, or anywhere in the world.

“It helps students because we can easily collaborate with each other, so if we need to share documents, we can easily do that,” said Horning. “I hope that (the visitors) learn that the Chrome Books and stuff like that it’s very useful and helps out with the teacher’s curriculum and helps us collaborate.”

Scott Matz, chief technology officer at Daniel Boone Area School District, said Boone will be launching a one-to-one program next year.

“We’re taking a look at what’s going on in the county, looking for tips for our district as well, and just generally having a benchmark to measure up against ourselves with our own project,” said Matz. “Integration looks different in each district but there’s definitely a couple of classroom resources that we can take back for our faculty.”

In addition to bringing more student collaboration into the classroom, Matz said Boone hopes integrating more technology will level the playing field for students by providing equal access to a device.

Daniel Boone math teacher Tracy Driehaus hopes to use more technology in her classroom.

“Math is clearly not the most engaging subject to a lot of students and yet it’s necessary. In my opinion, as a math teacher, the most necessary part of it is problem solving and developing that skill to think outside the box and go that extra mile to find a way to an answer,” said Driehaus. “I hope to use technology to be able to engage students who might not otherwise be engaged and to give them resources that they have access to do that problem solving for themselves.”

For example, students can access youtube videos and examples of problems to help them work through problems, instead of giving up and waiting to work with the teacher. Driehaus said this makes the resources and tools available to students.

“So that they have an investment in their education; they value it more. They see what they can do with it, rather than seeing it as something that someone else is forcing upon them,” said Driehaus.

Schuylkill Valley technology integration coach Tod Whitman said Schuylkill Valley wanted to give people in the community and educators from other districts a look at what Schuylkill Valley School District is doing.

“Show off what we’re doing, because we’re very proud of it, and hopefully show off kids doing real world applications in classes. But also to get ideas from people from other school districts and educational institutions about what they’re doing and maybe bring some ideas on where to go next here.”

Every student in grades 3 through 12 have a device in class everyday. Whitman said Schuylkill Valley is transforming the curriculum to use the devices and do more hands-on problem solving and real world applications, much of which includes team collaborations.

“We’re trying to provide a great educational opportunity for all of our students here, a level playing field with the technology, and trying to help our students develop collaborative problem solving skills that they can take with them, whether they go to college or out into the world of work,” said Whitman.

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.