Technology comes into the classroom

Last Thursday, Sonoma State University held its fourth Teacher Technology Showcase. The event was filled with educators and community members showing off technology ranging from robots to iPad apps. This year the event was moved into the more spacious third floor ballroom.

“This year, it was in a different venue. It was in the Cooperage before and it’s much nicer to be in this space. That’s definitely one difference, but so is noticing how the technology has evolved,” participant Rick Phelan said.

Phelan, who had attended the showcase before, displayed two small robots from the Sonoma County Robotics Challenge. His booth was one that attracted some of the younger attendees. The robots, would wheel around the small arena set up on the table on their own without falling. 

They were completely autonomous, meaning no human control. Phelan also played videos of past robotics challenges, which helped show other robot examples. Kids in grades four through eight, would build and enter their own robots in a competition against other entries.

“Some of it is more glitzy stuff, but I think you can see what other student teachers are showing and ways that they’re integrating technology,” Phelan said.

Another educator hoping to show off her iPad application, was attending the showcase for the first time.

“I didn’t expect to it to be this big, I heard that last year it was in a much smaller room. But I didn’t know there would be a whole different area where you could interact and make different things,” said participating teacher, Ellana Johnstone.

Johnstone’s booth was displaying an app that would assist students and teachers in presenting lessons and information from an iPad. The technology she was using allowed her to highlight, make notes, or even create illustrations over documents or a virtual whiteboard. Johnstone demonstrated what she could do on her own iPad and a projector she had set up.

“It is the 21st century. I think it’s only going to get more and more complex from there, but it’s a great way to make connections with kids this century,” Johnstone said.

Today an increasing amount of schools are implementing the use of iPads in class to aid student participation. 

Although it hasn’t spread to the Sonoma State campus, it is a reality that could be on the horizon.

“I think it would be cool to use iPads in class. But I’m not sure what kinds of restrictions would be put on them,” junior and history major, Isaac Briones said.

Johnstone’s comments regarding the need for the showcase, especially in this century certainly speak to the goal of the event.

“The goal of the Showcase is to highlight how educators are creating better learning environments for students through the integration of technology,” according to the Sonoma State web page.

With how many advances there are today in the tech world, the need for the showcase couldn’t be more clear.

“We know that technology is a part of our world and teachers need to be up to speed with it. So this is one way of helping teachers get connected and see what’s available,” Phelan said.

Phelan had some advice for kids or educators hoping to stay up to date with the technology boom.

“Go and see what’s happening. Visit other teacher’s classrooms and talk with other teachers about what’s happening. Be a part of social networks and go to conferences,” Phelan said.