Cincinnati teachers dedicated to keeping up with latest technology

Posted at 5:30 AM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 07:12:37-04

CINCINNATI -- From notebooks to Chromebooks, schools have gone through plenty of changes since the turn of the century.

As technology changes, so too must the educators who are integrating it into their teaching.

"If I don’t know what 'hashtag' means, then, I’m not going to be able to relate to (students)," said Katrina Fugate, who teaches advanced English at Middletown High School.

While some longtime educators might balk at the changes, veteran teachers in many districts are learning new tools to lead their schools in navigating the waters of modern technology.

"It’s kind of fun and exciting and new, and we’re just all kind of teaching each other," said Becky Sloan, media specialist at Sycamore Community Schools' E.H. Greene Intermediate.

Sloan began her teaching career 31 years ago and has been a media specialist for 26 of those years. She works in the library. That means she supports the curriculum from core classes such as math and social studies. She teaches kids research, literature and technology skills.

As a media specialist, her role has gone from teaching students to use a card catalog to find library books to guiding them through looking up literature electronically through an online public access catalog.

"I got into this field because I really liked books," Sloan said. "And now of course, there’s so much more than books."

The media center at Greene Intermediate still has plenty of books -- about 18,000 -- but it now boasts more than 2,000 electronic books, or e-books, and streamable audiobooks.

The center also is in the early stages of becoming a makerspace. A makerspace is a place where individuals can go to access tools and resources they might not otherwise have access to, from hammers and nails to 3-D printers. The makerspace at Greene Intermediate is expected to feature four 3-D printers, a tool to cut vinyl, a button maker and a sewing machine.

Middletown High School English teacher Katrina Fugate likes to learn about new technologies by exploring them herself. Photo provided

Katie Dykes, who has taught for 16 years in the Norwood City School District, has seen changes in schools even during that time period.

"When I started we still had the original blackboards from the early 1900s that our schools were built with," said Dykes, who teaches fifth-grade language arts and science at Williams Avenue Elementary.

Now, there are digital white boards in classrooms where chalk boards used to be. Students have significantly more access to technology in the classroom and that changes the way she delivers instruction.

"It has definitely changed my teaching style," Dykes said.

RELATED: Some schools experimenting with augmented reality, virtual reality.

Having grades available to teachers, parents and students through the online tool Progress Book helps her keep a better eye on her students' results.

She also can quickly and easily access video clips to keep her lessons engaging for students.

The interactive learning environment is becoming the norm for many teachers, who find themselves learning how to use new technologies while they’re teaching students how to use them. Often, students wind up teaching the educators, too.

"It’s really a different mindset from education of years ago, where it was the teacher knows everything and you just sit back and wait to be told what it is you’re going to learn," Sloan said.

Aside from learning from their students, teachers have a few tactics for keeping up with evolving technology.

"I keep myself submerged in social media," Fugate said.

As someone who prefers figuring new technology out for herself, she keeps up with current events and connects with students through platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

An Eno interactive white board is just one of the new technologies that Middletown High School science teacher Brian Lampart uses in class. Photo provided

Middletown High School science teacher Brian Lampart, who has taught for 17 years, likes to take a hands-on approach to learning about new technology.

Whether he’s the first to try something new or waits for others to take the lead, he likes to learn about technology by playing around and exploring it.

In addition to using the tools available through Google Classroom, Lampart likes to use an app called Remind to reiterate due dates and to send notifications to his track team members. He’s also created a webpage with another teacher and is working on blogs with some students.

"It supplements all the personal interaction you have with students," he said.

As a technology facilitator for her building, Dykes often takes the initiative to explore new tools online, but she also attends training sessions regularly and presents to fellow staff members what she learns.

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"Honestly, the biggest challenge has been for teachers to learn how to use the correct programs and get the training and figure out how to use it in the classroom," Dykes said.

Despite the challenges, the new dimensions technology adds to instruction -- from tracking students’ grades better to creating webpages -- make it worthwhile for educators to adapt, Lampart said.

"It can be a short-term negative, but it turns out being a long-term positive, usually," he said.