Johnson City Schools hosted its fourth Technology and Innovation Academy at Science Hill Tuesday to teach the district's instructors how to be more tech-savvy.
The event featured about 50 sessions that aimed to fine-tune more than 300 teachers’ classroom tech skills. The lessons were led and organized by other Johnson City Schools instructors who shared their experience using technology to optimize their lessons.
“Everything today is teacher-led,” Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology David Timbs said. “And who better to lead those sessions than our teachers who are using it in their classrooms?”
Ryan Armstrong, a special education teacher at Towne Acres Elementary, taught instructors how to use technology to teach students with disabilities and special needs. He said technology can help “close the gap” in classrooms across the district.
“I use a lot of read-and-write features, spell check– something as simple as using closed captioning for a student with audible deficits. It’s more situational on the student,” he said. “Understanding that those students are indeed often in gen ed or general settings, it’s important to identify those students to make sure you close those gaps.”
Armstrong said it also helps students keep up with the pace of technological changes later in life.
“In this generation, we need to be looking to what’s next with technology because technology is changing at such a rapid pace,” he said. “It is very crucial because most students will be getting a job that’s based around using technology.”
Keisha Scott, a first-grade teacher at South Side Elementary, gave lessons on “how to ditch morning work.” She said using visual learning platforms like Osmos and the Seesaw app can encourage more engaging classroom lessons and hands-on learning.
She said some first-grade educators recently noticed “a deficit in problem-solving skills,” and she believes technology in the classroom could help change that trend.
“It really just hits all those different, diverse learners,” she said.
Teachers also learned the importance of keeping up with technology to keep students safe.
“Technology is evolving at such a dynamic rate,” Timbs said. “It’s important that, from time to time, we take time to talk to our teachers and give them a lens into that – especially our teachers who are also parents.”
Before Tuesday’s classroom lessons, keynote speaker Theodore Francisco from the Department of Homeland Security taught instructors about the dangers of cyberbullying among students and the dangers of online predators.
While “it’s not a happy topic,” Francisco said it’s important to stay up-to-date on what students are able to do with smartphones and on the dark corners of the internet.
“It’s very important you impress on your kids the importance of what happens online,” he said.