Tucker County's technology integration specialists this week hosted the 2012 Tech Camp, an annual educational series that introduces the county's teachers to new educational technology.
Becky Moore, who works as a TIS at both Tucker Valley High School and Davis Thomas Elementary, said the camp is an invaluable resource for teachers because it helps them keep up with technology's notoriously fast-paced rate of change.
"There is so much technology to take advantage of - but, if you don't know how to access it or how to use it, it's useless," Moore said Thursday. "My job as a TIS is to stay up-to-date with technology and share what I know with our teachers."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Joe Hoover
Tucker County teachers learn Thursday about new technology during this year’s Tech Camp at Tucker County High School. From left are Kelly Underwood, a sixth-grade teacher at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School; Lisa Anderson, a teacher at Davis Thomas Elementary; Heidi Hamric, a technology integration specialist and teacher at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School; and Becky Moore, a Tucker County technology integration specialist.
Organized like a traditional conference, Tech Camp attendees get to choose what they want to study. Two of the more popular topics were an education-focused social networking platform called Edmodo and Smithsonian's History Explorer.
Edmodo, which has an interface that looks just like Facebook, is a free website that offers teachers a safe place to communicate with each other and their students. Moore said teachers using the program can upload assignments, administer tests, grade tests and compute all sorts of statistics based on the grades.
"It really lets you see how well you are reaching your students," Moore said.
Tech Camp attendee Kelly Underwood said she was very excited about using Edmodo with her students.
Underwood said she has attended every Tech Camp held in Tucker County because she always leaves with something useful.
"As a teacher, I've found I have to keep up with technology," she said. "Our kids are practically born with technology in their hands. They are 'digital natives,' and it shows. If you want to reach them you have to incorporate technology."
Underwood is a sixth-grade reading and language teacher at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School.
Another attendee, Lisa Anderson, a teacher at Davis Thomas Elementary, said she was amazed by the opportunities offered by Smithsonian's History Explorer, a huge online database of videos and information designed to really engage students.
"It brings history alive," Anderson said. "They have character actors who do all kinds of performances - if you want to meet John Brown, you can, and you can ask him questions.
"It's just amazing how many opportunities technology can bring to a classroom," Anderson continued. "I just don't see any drawbacks. You're connecting kids to each other, and you can give them more individualized attention."
Fortunately, Anderson said, teachers are getting a lot of support. For example, Thrasher Engineering gave $1,000 to Davis Thomas for laptops.
"These Tech Camps are also great. I missed the first one and I still feel like I am catching up," she said.
Moore said all this technology is having a huge impact on the way education works. Teachers are increasingly filling the role of information guides, rather than information keepers.
"For hundreds of years, the teacher was the one with the information," Moore said. "But now, my cellphone has access to more information than I can ever hope to remember. Our job as teachers, today, is more to teach kids how to find good information and how to think critically."
This year's Tech Camp had 38 teachers in attendance, nearly half of all of Tucker County's teachers.
"The technology is just going to get more and more sophisticated," Moore said. "It's our job to keep up."
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