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TD3 Tech Cadre: How Tempe Elementary is Integrating Technology into the Classroom

Post Date:08/20/2015 11:19 AM

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Tempe Elementary School District continues to lead the way in technology integration and technology usage in classrooms. Thanks to the voters who approved capital override elections, Tempe Elementary is able to integrate tools like student laptops and iPads into classrooms in order to enhance the learning environment.

In 2013, School Support & Systems, in conjunction with Instructional Excellence, introduced the Tech Cadre - a group of District-wide educators who believed in the importance of technology in TD3 classrooms and who would be advocates of technology for their colleagues. The Tech Cadre started with just 11 schools and 38 members, but going into it’s third year, there are 57 members, representing every school in the District.

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This past summer, Technology Integration Specialists Cindy Inman and Jennifer Kaupke from Education Technology hosted a week-long “summer academy” for all Tech Cadre members to prepare them for the new school year. They did extensive training on MacBooks, iPads, various apps, instructional ideas, and more.

For the 2015-2016 school year, the goal was to have at least three Tech Cadre members at each elementary school, Laird, and Ward. With the roll-out of one-to-one computing in sixth-grade, Connolly Middle School, Fees College Prep, and Gililland Middle School have Technology Integration Coaches.

techcadre_group_1000x750Inman and Kaupke described one of their favorite “ah-ha” moments being when they see teachers “clone” themselves in the classroom. Through the use of an iPad and whiteboard apps or Wixie, teachers can create full lessons for their students. While some students are at a station with the teacher, another group is self-leading themselves through a lesson. The “teacher” gives each student a job to help the rest of the group through the lesson.

Inman explained she was observing a classroom and a student looked up from the iPad and said, “Mrs. Hughes! It’s like you’re there… and you’re here!” as he pointed down to his iPad.

This creates an environment where there are multiple things going on in one room, but everyone is completely engaged in their small group learning because of the technology.

“Students are excited to explore a new approach to learning. They are eager to come to small group and collaborate with each other on projects and activities,” said first-year cadre member Tracey Valenzuela. Valenzuela is a kindergarten teacher at Thew Elementary and explained that she is learning as much as her students are about technology. Valenzuela and Kelly Trujillo are the first cadre members to integrate technology into a kindergarten class.

In Valenzuela’s class, students were using the application “PicCollage” to learn their ABC’s. Students were each given a letter assignment and were instructed to take pictures of items that started with that letter. They then collaged the pictures together, added the appropriate letter by each picture, then presented their work to their classmates.

techcadre_piccollage_1000x750Second-year Tech Cadre member Brittany Barnes has seen immense changes in her students ever since joining the cadre and integrating technology in the classroom.

“I taught fourth-grade last year and saw students who could barely login to a laptop at the beginning of the year develop into tech savvy experts who helped teach other students and grade levels how to use technology,” said Barnes. “My students are eager to learn and grow their brains in technology. I am in a third-grade class this year with students who aren't comfortable with technology yet, but we're up for the challenge and hope that each day brings us new opportunities to grow!”

Although the school year is in full swing, the training for teachers (and ultimately, students) does not stop. Each Tech Cadre member is assigned a personal coach and will complete another 40 hours of training throughout the school year.  

Rover Second-Grade Teacher Jessica Foster is in her third-year as a cadre member and continues to see the benefits of the cadre – for her students, her school, her colleagues, and herself.

“My biggest advice to anyone wanting to learn more about integrating technology into your classroom is to form a connection with a Tech Cadre member or a staff member whom you see as inspirational with technology on your campus. Check in with that person every once in a while to see what exciting technology tools they are implementing!” said Foster.

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The Tempe Elementary Tech Cadre will continue to grow and allow students and staff to explore learning through technology. Inman and Kaupke are hopeful that there will be a seamless integration into all areas and subjects, where technology is being used as an effective tool – just like the traditional paper and pencil is used.

“There are many different philosophies and beliefs, but technology is not going away,” said Inman. “It is important that we are preparing our students for the future, and that includes effective use of technology.”

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