Teachers get tech savvy at ‘Geek Camp’
PARKER – Learning how to use an iPad or Google Apps is one thing. In a 21st Century Education classroom, a teacher has to take it much further than that.
Ultimately, it’s not about the technology so much as it is about what kind of learning results from it. This idea was at the heart of a professional development effort for teachers and staff called ‘Geek Camp,’ held July 9-13 at the Challenge to Excellence Charter School in Parker.
The free event encouraged teachers to stretch their brain muscles, while providing hands-on learning in small groups of 5 or 6 teachers.
“One of the fears we have with professional development is, you don’t want to overload with a ton of information and then just send them on their way,” said Geek Camp co-organizer Kiffany Lychock. “So it’s not a stand up and lecture type of development. It’s collaborating and working with each other to understand how to use this technology.”
Lychock and Liz Walhof collaborated with volunteers throughout the District to build the week-long itinerary, which included classes and discussions about how to use tools such as Google Apps, iPads, and social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook.
From there, it is up to the teachers to decide how they will integrate the products into the classroom.
“I think it makes it come alive,” said Kindergarten Teacher Adi Sanders. “We are talking about 21st Century Skills, and students need to know how to access technology. All of us continue to keep growing. I keep growing, they do, and that will continue to keep evolving and changing.”
Sanders took part in a Google Earth seminar, led by Geek Camp Instructor and Sand Creek Elementary Technology Teacher Brandon Petersen.
“We are constantly trying to get kids to understand what community looks like,” Petersen said. “We talk about [world community] in social studies, but there was no visual representation of that. Kids now get to use Google Earth and take virtual field trips to see what these things look like and the impact they have on history.”
For teachers, Geek Camp is also about empowering students to take charge of their own education. Following the Backwards Education model, teachers implement iPads and social media into a lesson with the intent of letting a student use that technology to take their education way beyond the textbook. That may mean connecting with another classroom in another country or integrating new apps into their project presentations.
“It really becomes like a legend,” Petersen said. “Sure, we teach the teachers how to use this, but then they teach the students, who teach others, and that learning keeps transpiring on and on and on.”