Digital Learning Festival celebrates classroom tech tools
The end of school is near, but that wasn’t what students at South Side Elementary were celebrating on Thursday. Instead, the students were actively engaged and all smiles as they showed their schoolmates how they used technology in the classroom.
Each class toured the school to see how the different grade levels were using the different technology tools in their classroom.
“It’s really amazing to see,” South Side Elementary principal Dr. Anne Littleford said. “We hear so much about technology in the classroom, but when you see the students engaged and eager to learn because of the tools they are using, it really puts it all into perspective.”
Fourth grade students in Anita Sutherland’s class were hosting a book tasting, in which they created a digital book report using Adobe Spark, Buncee, Powerpoint or Bloxels. It’s a 21st century twist on the old pen and paper book report, but students seemed to enjoy watching the different projects.
While it’s easy to see how students are benefiting from the influx of technology, teachers are also very welcoming of the new additions in their classroom.
"I’ve taught for 23 years and when I go home at the end of the day I know where each child is, because of what we are doing with digital learning,” Sutherland said. “Because of the programs that we use, I immediately know where my students are and what I need to teach the next day.”
Johnson City Schools Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology Dr. David Timbs said those responses and the positive ramifications for students, teachers and parents are a big reason that Johnson City has made such a point to bring their classrooms into the 21st century.
“Our Digital Learning Teacher Leaders across our district have been modeling for their colleagues the transition to students creating and producing with technology, not just sitting and consuming technology,” Timbs said. “This demonstrates our district’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that our digital transformation plan emphasizes teaching and learning, not the device. In the hands of well-trained and passionate teachers, technology increases the engagement opportunities for our students.
“Activities like our digital learning festival, digital learning day, STEAM days, summer STEAM Camps, and Technology nights all complement the change in instruction you see daily in our classrooms.”
That transformation was visible in Morgan Rankin’s 3rd grade class. As they took time to do some block coding with Sphero robots. Rankin said that her students are definitely engaged whenever the technology comes into the classroom, but she also said it has had other positive affects on her students.
“It’s pulled in some kids that maybe would be daydreamers, kids that would maybe hesitate to try something new or hard,” she said. “It’s definitely increased cooperation in my classroom and leadership in my classroom.”
Even kindergarten students were able to show off the various technology tools that they use in the classroom. In Jamie Mains Milhorn’s class, students showed how they use an app called SeeSaw to show their teacher and parents keep up with the activities they complete in class.
“Everything that they learn, they put it on Seesaw. So they record themselves reading and I can watch it and see if they have any misconceptions or I can give them thoughtful feedback on almost every project they do,” Mains Milhorn said. “There are so many more things that I can do with technology.”
Mains Milhorn was quick to make sure that parents understand that students aren’t playing with technology all day, they are simply using their devices to foster their learning.
“For me, I am trying to prove that technology is a way to express your learning and a way to create…I’m replacing paper activities with technology,” she said.
Kindergarteners in Shana Whitaker’s class were also busy showing off their devices as they were scattered across the room working on different programs.
“It’s wonderful to have all these options,” Whitaker said. “With all the technology that we have, it’s just amazing that they can do it on a kindergarten level now.”
Their devices can also open a whole new world for reading as well, as they are able to access books that they may desire through the online library EPIC.
“We have a large classroom library but being able to get on online resources and find things that they are interested in with fiction and non-fiction books, the opportunities are just endless,” Whitaker said.
At the end of the day, after their tasks were completed, the students were rewarded for their production. Students were whisked down a red carpet and presented with an award. They also had their pictures taken with the award, which they will be presented with along with a certificate.