• Empowered learning blog header

    When leveraged the right way, learning powered by instructional technology can be magical!  It can bring learning to life in a way that simply isn't possible without it.  Digital tools and resources can connect students to each other and to the world outside the classroom.  They allow students the opportunity to access learning anytime and anywhere, allowing for flexible pacing and personalized learning. A skilled teacher who infuses technology in the classroom can create conditions that empower students to express their voice in the world and become creators of content in unique and interesting ways.  There simply isn't anything that beats seeing students actively engaged in deep, meaningful, and joyful learning.  This blog is a showcase of some of the amazing learning experiences that are happening in Fulton County School as we emPOWER Learning with Instructional Technology.  

emPOWERED Learning Blog

  • Using Nearpod to Foster Agile and Responsive Teaching

    Posted by Heather Van Looy on 5/13/2022 6:00:00 AM

    Written by Colleen Cauffiel

    Students working on a computer     Teacher instructing students on computers

    As the Covid-19 Pandemic continues to impact schools around the country, leaders are seeking ways to be agile and responsive to better address the needs created by school closures.  The Administrative Staff at Summit Hill Elementary School sought to ensure teachers had the tools and knowledge needed to switch to virtually delivering instruction if the need arose and to use data in real-time to effectively meet the needs of students.  As a result, all teachers at Summit Hill Elementary were given the opportunity to learn more about Nearpod.  The focus of their learning was building interactive content and formative assessments for students using Nearpod's wide variety of tools.   

    Nearpod is an interactive learning tool that allows educators to create online lessons for K-12 students.  Nearpod features easy-to-navigate, interactive, multimedia lessons with real-time content control and data collection on student performance and engagement.  The Nearpod Library contains a vast collection of pre-made, engaging lessons that are easy to edit and personalize.  Nearpod also contains a variety of captivating content and activities created with partners that include BBC Video, Phet Simulation, and Flocabulary.   

    The Fulton County Instructional Technology Department provided support to Summit Hill Elementary by assigning an instructional technology coach from KSU iTeach, Colleen Cauffiel.  Colleen worked with teachers offering time-saving strategies and best practices for utilizing Nearpod to engage students at Summit Hill Elementary.  Teachers participated in professional learning during their grade-level planning time, and Colleen provided personalized follow-up support based on teachers' individual needs. 

    The Kindergarten team worked with Colleen to co-plan a lesson on phonemes that the teachers implemented with their students. Some teachers asked Colleen to prepare and model a sample lesson in their classrooms, while others needed support in editing existing lessons. In addition, there were teachers who provided Colleen with an upcoming topic and asked her to curate resources that would support their learners.  When the opportunity presented itself to provide support for a visually impaired student new to the school, Colleen worked with the Special Education team and showed them how to access the accessibility features in Nearpod including changing font size, adding audio instructions, enabling audio student responses, and the use of immersive reader tools to meet the needs of the student.  

    In the current teaching environment, flexibility and adaptability are keys to success.  Using Nearpod to engage students and gather real-time formative assessment data is an example of how digital tools can help schools to be more agile and responsive to the needs of students.

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  • Not All Screen Time is Created Equal 

    Posted by Heather Van Looy on 4/29/2022 6:00:00 AM

    Written by Anna Bilyeu

    It’s Saturday. Your 13-year-old child just spent the morning connecting with friends online to research, plan, and produce a podcast about their favorite video game. You know to be aware of screen time limits, but this seems different from hours of browsing on Instagram or watching an endless train of YouTube videos. You can see your child learning as they work, thinking deeply, and sharing ideas. If this situation sounds familiar, you’re already aware of an important concept of digital learning: not all screen time is created equal. 

    Girl on computer

    As adults, we strive to do what’s best for children! We want to ensure we are doing all we can to help them grow and thrive… Which means we are concerned about how much time they should be spending in front of screens. When looking for answers, we often hear sweeping generalizations about how screen time impacts children, or strict rules about how many minutes of screen time children should have each day. The truth is, it’s not that simple. These guidelines and generalizations do not reflect the fact that children can engage with screens in various ways, and these activities impact their learning and development differently. 

    As child psychologist and director of the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Michael Rich explains, “Screens are not inherently toxic. They’re neutral. It’s what we do with them that matters.” So what are kids doing with screens? Research finds that time spent on screens generally falls into three major categories: 

    Consumption: Consumption refers to activities that involve reading, listening, viewing media from a screen. Consumption can be passive, meaning information only flows in a single direction, such as watching a video, reading an article, or listening to a podcast. Consumption can also be interactive, such as playing video games or navigating a website. It’s easy to think of consumption as being all “bad” - mindless scrolling on TikTok, hours of binge watching YouTube videos, or playing video games late into the night. However, purposeful consumption can allow children to relax, engage in a hobby, or gain new information and skills. 

    Girl making origami and watching online tutorial

    Creation: Many technologies allow users to create their own content. During screen time, children can use various apps and programs to make art, compose music, code and design, publish stories, produce videos, and more. Creation generally involves some higher-level, critical thinking skills. Using technology to create can engage children and give them opportunities to learn by doing. 

    Computer keyboard with word "Create" on a key

    Communication and Collaboration: We can also use technology to connect with other people, such as through video chatting, using social media, or posting on discussion boards. During these activities, children learn to clearly share information, thoughts, and opinions with others, and they can practice using these communication skills for various purposes. When connecting with others online, kids also often have opportunities to collaborate as they use their talents, expertise, and knowledge to work together with others to reach a common goal. 

    Two people shaking hands through a computer screen

    As children use devices and digital tools, remember to consider how they are spending their time. What activities are they engaged in? When it comes to screen time, the goal is to find balance. Understanding these key activity types can help us create a reasonable and healthy plan for how much time is spent on various screen-based activities. Invite kids to become a part of the conversation! Through these conversations, we can help equip children for the future by building a strong understanding of how technology can be used for different purposes. 

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