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Weber School District employees participate in annual Brain Blast

By Nancy Van Valkenburg - | Aug 3, 2012
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MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIElD/Standard-ExaminerTeachers in the Weber School District focus on learning new technology during a conference at Weber High School on Wednesday.

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Brent Moser, a technical expert with the Weber School District, instructs teachers in the Weber School District on some new software during a meeting at Weber High School on Wednesday. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIElD/Standard-Examiner)

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MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIElD/Standard-ExaminerTeachers practice with new technology for use in the classroom in the upcoming school year.

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Teachers in the Weber School District are trained on some new software during a meeting at Weber High School Wednesday. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIElD/Standard-Examiner)

PLEASANT VIEW — Asked to use their cellphones and tablets to type in their favorite technology to help students learn, about 300 teachers and administrators tapped in their answers.

Smart boards, iPads, the Internet, came the responses. LCD projectors, Wikipedia, YouTube, flip videos, the list, projected on the auditorium screen, continued.

Then came a few playful comments from Weber School District employees who weren’t onboard with the district’s latest technology: pencils, books, electricity, well-trained teachers.

The teachers and administrators gathered this week for a two-day conference, Brain Blast, focused on the technology they can use in the classroom.

Keynote speaker Sara Jones, of Utah’s School Improvement Network, got even wary teachers laughing with a tongue-in-cheek video depicting cartoon educators resisting classroom use of pencils, fearing pencils would discourage students from keeping information in their heads. Students can do “sketchy” things and write mean comments with pencils, after all. Pencils break, and good luck finding a pencil tech when you need one.

This year marks Weber School District’s sixth annual Brain Blast, said Dave Brooks, district director of technology.

“One of the major issues we have in implementing new technology is training,” Brooks said. “This event gives us the opportunity to train a small group of about 300 teachers in new technology. Our expectation is they will go back to their home schools and be early adopters who can help others learn the technology.”

The group is limited because Weber High School has 300 computers available, Brooks said. The district has about 1,600 teachers. Teachers were not paid for conference attendance.

“We know that students will gravitate more toward high-technology classrooms and teachers engaged with technology,” Brooks said. “It becomes self-reenforcing. But for a lot of teachers it is hard to make that first leap.

“We knew we could never afford to train every teacher in every technology, but this annual conference sows the seeds,” Brooks said.

Breakout sessions offered hands-on training with technologies, including:

• Moodle, software for online course delivery, which gives the students the ability to take tests and turn in assignments online. Students also can access lecture materials, videos, and syllabi posted by teachers.

• Panopto, lecture-capture software teachers can use to record in-class talks, with videos and smart boards and Power Point presentations in real time. Panopto is especially valuable for students who miss school, or who want to go back over materials they did not understand in the classroom, Brooks said.

• Hand-held devices with Internet access, such as smartphones and tablets. Teachers were asked to BYOD (bring your own devices) to learn how to access and use websites and apps that support educators and the educational process.

Workshop leaders helped participants navigate sites and apps that allowed teachers to see student answers to questions posed in class. If a significant percentage of students typed the wrong answer into their mobile devices, teachers would know to go back over the basic material previously covered.

Hand-held devices, whether brought in by students or provided in the classroom, also allow shy students who are unlikely to raise their hands to participate, leaders said.

Also covered were sites developed by the Weber School District, including WeberTube (www.webertube.com) for sharing videos, photos and documents, and eBooks http://ebooks.wsd.net, an online library of non-copyrighted books.

Brooks said some teachers feel fear and trepidation when faced with new technology.

“Once they are trained and understand, they jump on it,” he said. “It’s just fear of the unknown.”


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