Each summer, Green Bay Area Public School District teachers and staff are hard at work learning about new technology to better engage students and enhance their learning. The District’s technology department hosted an inaugural “Summer Learning Academy” in August 2016, where technology integrators and teacher leaders offered 200 informational sessions to staff over a three-day period. Overall, more than 350 District staff members attended the Summer Learning Academy on a voluntary basis.
The Summer Learning Academy covered a variety of topics, including: engagement to increase student achievement, combining literacy with technology, responsible use of classroom technology and internet safety, and more. Staff members were also introduced to new learning and teaching tools for students including Bee Bots and SMART Tables.
Amy Sterckx and Lisa Olson are two of the technology integration specialists who helped facilitate the District’s Summer Learning Academy. Sterckx and Olson were proud to offer this learning opportunity for teachers, and believe using technology effectively can be an integral part of student learning. “Many of the new tools we’ve demonstrated to staff will help teach students problem-solving, vocabulary development, working as a team, and how to follow directions,” Olson said. “Learning these skills and getting students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math at a young age is very important.”
During the Academy Olson showed teachers how to use Bee Bots, which are robots designed specifically for children. As students learn to “program” the Bee Bots, they begin to learn the principles of coding, expand their vocabulary, work collaboratively as a team, and are given control of their own learning in a playful, engaging setting. “Even though Bee Bots are fun and exciting for children to use, they are very educational,” says Olson. “Bee Bots really get students thinking about future careers in engineering, video game design, coding, computer science, and so much more.”
SMART Tables were also a feature of the Summer Learning Academy. A SMART Table is a large touch-screen mounted on a table that allows 8 students to use interactively. SMART Tables assist student learning in traditional academic areas like mathematics and geography, but they also teach students soft-skills such as sharing, taking turns, and working collaboratively with others. SMART Tables are wheelchair accessible, and can be used in special education for non-verbal students, students with autism, and other learners who have difficulty communicating. “SMART Tables allow students to appropriately communicate and demonstrate their learning, while allowing them to be self-sufficient, independent learners,” said Sterckx. Green Bay currently has 13 SMART Tables that are used in various schools across the District.
Put simply, the Summer Learning Academy’s goal was to inspire, excite, and support teachers, while empowering them to engage students with new learning and technology tools in the 2016-17 school year and beyond. “By using these unique learning tools such as SMART Tables and Bee Bots, our hope as educators is to create a love of learning in our students, and a love of coming to school.”