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Current, future educators flock to interactive technology conference

Jonathan Bergmann

T21Con is an interactive and engaging professional development opportunity where future and professional educators gain hands-on practice with emerging educational technologies.

“As technology and different applications become more widespread and readily available, we need to be sure that our teacher education majors know how to use them in the classroom … to enhance learning,” said Amee Adkins, associate dean of the College of Education.

T21Con is sponsored and organized by the College of Education and Students Using and Integrating Technology in Education (SUITE) and made possible through donations by Mary J. and Robert English. Their desire was to provide future and professional educators with meaningful experiences with educational technology.

The event on November 13 kicked off with a keynote presentation from Jonathan Bergmann, a former chemistry teacher who co-authored the book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day.

Bergmann says that he and fellow chemistry teacher Aaron Sams initially began recording their lessons as a way to reduce the amount of time they spent on re-teaching lessons to students who missed class or who needed extra help with the content.

However, it soon became clear that the teachers were onto something bigger. They decided to implement an instructional model where students watched the lessons before each class. This adjustment “flipped” their classrooms by requiring students to understand each day’s content before class, and apply their learning in activities traditionally reserved for homework. This approach eliminated the need for classroom lectures, and freed up the teachers to provide individualized instruction for their students.

“Rather than being the only person who is responsible for student learning, I enabled students to be responsible for their own learning,” said Bergmann.

While the details of the “flipped” classroom models were new to many in the audience, Bergmann’s flexible student-first model provided food for thought.

“I appreciated his message about ‘starting out small’ with maybe just a single lesson, and broadening it if it works for the classroom,” said Jessica Strelak, a senior elementary education major.

Following the keynote speaker, the conference continued with a variety of breakout sessions led by teachers and technology vendors.

This year, more than 400 students and teachers attended the event, an increase of approximately 50 percent from 2011.

“The student turnout was surprisingly larger, and they were more active than last year,” said Wes Matejka, the technology coordinator of Metcalf Laboratory School (PK-8).

In one of the sessions offered, faculty and staff from Metcalf facilitated a question and answer between eighth-grade students and teacher candidates. The session enabled teacher candidates to gain unique insights on educational technology from the perspective of students.

“The pre-service teachers really wanted to know our students’ opinions on the different forms of technologies, and how or if they thought the devices could help them in the classroom,” said Matejka.

The conference also featured a “technology commons” where attendees could talk with experts and participate in educational technology demonstrations.

“(The presenters) used a lot of different techniques, like games and other hands-on activities to get us involved,” said Melissa Powell, a senior elementary education major.

“The learning was not theoretical, said Mallory McClintock, a senior elementary education major. “They showed us how we could use the technology, and let us do it.”

T21Con is one of the many ways the teacher education program at Illinois State prepares future teachers serve every student.

“This conference allowed a broader idea of how to use technology in the classroom, and it encouraged us to be risk takers in our eventual classrooms,” said Emily Stevens, a senior elementary education major.

“Coming out of this, I feel like I can do something original and valuable that can really help my students,” said Amy Putz, a senior elementary education major.

“As Illinois State graduates, and SUITE members, it is a responsibility for us to take the knowledge and experience we receive with emerging technologies and bring them to our future employer, said Megan Petty, a junior special education major.

“We are taught that being a first year educator is a challenge, but that first year is also an opportunity to bring knowledge about practices that are cutting-edge. But I really feel it doesn’t stop there. We are challenged to go above and beyond, and to be lifelong learners in the field.”

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