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Gaming, Google and the Paperless Classroom

How Innovative Technology Can Help Teachers Teach and Students Learn

At Touro College Graduate School of Technology’s (GST) One Day Institute, “Innovative Technology in Education” Tom Maher, President of iMan IT Solutions, a veteran educator, and moderator of the event, urged the attendees to keep an open mind about where you are going and where educational technology might take you.

So began an engaging and informative seminar on Feb. 3 sponsored by the GST’s Instructional Technology dept. that looked at what companies in educational technology are doing to promote teaching and learning.

In five segments presented either in person, by webinar or via Uber conference, the lineup showcased a variety of instructional technologies- everything from gaming to Google Classroom.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Handouts: a paperless program by the company, TipiTap, has young learners using touch-screen tablets for classwork, homework, art, music, social and motor skills building. For teachers and administrators, it can be used to track grades, assignments, and general progress.
  • Activity Works, is a series of videos that gets fidgety kids out of their seats, moving to the beat, and learning about Food on the Farm, dinosaurs, and The Seven Wonders of the World, for example.
  • The makers of the virtual video game, The Sims have teamed up with Glass Lab, to create a series of “high-impact” gaming programs for the web, iPad, PC or Mac, that are tailored to various curriculum. Some emphasize STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) such as Game Over Gopher (grades 2-7: Math, graphing and coordinate grids) or IF Edu (social emotional learning for grades 4-8).
  • Gaming is a way to teach problem solving and teamwork, said Maher. Gaming also builds self-confidence. A student will tackle a game and get used to failing in order to achieve the next level; that builds focus, energy, and enthusiasm. If we can take a game design and insert education, that’s the secret sauce, he said.
  • Learning Bird was described by instructor Roxanne Desforges as a tool to help students find their own path to better learning. It personalizes instruction for students who struggle and offers multiple approaches. It is like having many teachers for 1 student, she said.
  • Chris Church, Managing Partner of Tech Planning.net, introduced Google Classroom/Google Apps for Education as an instructional workflow and document management system based on suggestions from students and teachers (a bottom-up philosophy that Google is famous for ) who are known as classroom integration partners. It is free and does not run advertising.

Feedback from the audience — primarily teachers from the New York City area — confirmed that educational technology is not without its issues. A public school teacher said iPads were distributed to her students but that they are forbidden to access the internet, social media, or its built in cameras. Another woman said her challenge was teaching adult learners who were completely unfamiliar with technology. A third teacher was concerned that the New York City Dept. of Education (DOE) did not dictate how technology should be used.

Maher responded that it was good that the DOE does not mandate how instructional technology should be used. There are different programs to figure out what works for you.

Church agreed. Schools have to assess their priorities. Is it STEM or literacy they want to teach? We have to ask ourselves, How can teachers integrate technology into the curriculum and be technology practitioners? The goal should be to empower students to learn the way they choose.

Church went on to say that 2033 is an important year, because that is when today’s kindergarteners will exit into the workforce. He asked, How can teachers train students with the skills they will need in the workplace?

Maher started his career as a social studies teacher, and took a detour into the world of personal computers when they first exploded onto the scene in the early 1980’s, and eventually was hired by Apple. Maher later recognized great potential for computer technology in education and never looked back.

For decades we have heard how technology will transform the learning environment. But what we have found is that great teachers are the only ones who can transform the learning environment. What we also know is that great teachers understand technology and can leverage it in meaningful ways for their students, said Maher.

Jay Lefkowitz, GST’s expert in Instructional Technology and former regional technology manager for the borough of Queens, said many of Touro’s students and alumni are teachers in the NYC Dept. of Education who can benefit for the program. Our GST is dedicated to presenting the latest state-of-the-art developments in educational technology so that they can effectively and directly enhance the curriculum in the K -12 classrooms and schools of our students, he said.

Innovative Technology in Education is part of a series of workshops and institutes presented by Touro College GST on a variety of current topics relevant to Educational Technology, Information Systems, and Web and Multi-media fields. The Institutes are free or low cost, and open to the general public. For more information or to register for GST’s One-Day Institute, contact Lyubov Fridman at lyubov.fridman@touro.edu.