Teachers get tech-savvy

Educators gather for training in use of iPods, new digital devices

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— Armed with iPods and a growing body of tech-savvy knowledge, a group of Steamboat Springs School District teachers have dedicated themselves to becoming what Strawberry Park Elementary School media specialist Sherry Holland called the "teachers of the 21st century."

Twenty teachers gathered at Steamboat Springs High School for Saturday's "Digitally Speaking" training, with the purpose of exploring how best to use modern technology and multimedia tools for the benefit of their students.

"We have elementary teachers looking at creating interventions for kids who are English language learners, so they can acquire language skills with these tools," Holland said. "On the other hand, we have upper elementary teachers who are looking at students having trouble with any subject area - they can focus on lessons for catch-up."

The teachers who attended received iPods and digital voice recorders at their first session last May, and they have been researching and exploring the technology ever since, Steamboat Springs High School Librarian Nicole De-Crette said.

"It puts all this information into a handy-dandy tool that all these kids are already very familiar with," Holland said. "It's their digital world."

"The first class was learning about the iPod as more than just a music player," DeCrette said. "You can store files on it like a hard drive, put PowerPoint (presentations) with audio on it."

At Saturday's training, the assembled teachers - five from each Steamboat Springs School District campus - troubleshot technical problems that have arisen in their multimedia experimentation and brainstormed ways to utilize the technology in the classroom.

"It's about them coming together on how they'd like to see this come to life, and its role for the students," DeCrette said.

The project is funded by the Education Fund Board's Technology Commission. The teachers have three more training sessions this fall and are moving into actively testing how the devices and their applications affect learning.

During roundtable discussions Saturday, teachers brainstormed ways to use the device for individual students, ranging from English language learners to gifted and talented students, as well as how to implement technology into lessons for the entire class. Using Podcasting as a study tool and recording lectures to help students keep up during absences were common ideas across grade levels.

"Let's say they miss class, they miss the lecture, they miss the review - When all of our skiers are gone, they can download Podcasts onto their iPods," DeCrette said.

The technology also has its uses for the schools outside of student instruction. For traveling teachers such as elementary school Spanish teacher Ann Coon, who travels between campuses and classes, the iPod is an extremely compact and mobile way to take elements of her lessons around, she said.

Strawberry Park Elementary School is working on creating a virtual tour of its campus in Spanish, accompanied by answers to common questions, which prospective parents could listen to on an iPod when exploring the school.

"It eliminates the language barrier," Coon said. "The applications for this device in language are huge."

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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