Facing seemingly endless ways to integrate technology in the classroom and an ever more tech-savvy community, local educators and parents gathered this week to share their knowledge and hear from teachers about digital tools to improve learning.
Corpus Christi ISD held its ninth annual Tech2Teach on Wednesday, featuring presentations for teachers, school staff and parents. The conference will continue Thursday.
About 800 participants registered for the event, CCISD director of instructional technology Cary Perales said including 100 CCISD parents or guardians. That’s an increase in the level of parent participation at the event. About 30 family members participated last year.
“We’re trying to get more parents involved so they can understand the different things that their kids are being exposed to,” Perales said.
Parent Rebbecca Karwedsky, whose son will be a second-grader at Calk-Wilson Elementary School in the fall, stopped by Tech2Teach to learn more about the district, sitting in on sessions on mental health resources and career and technical education.
“I was trying to fill in the gaps on how the district runs and what it has to offer,” Karwedsky said.
Blended learning in schools
The classroom experience has changed since many parents attended school, with more and more technology integrated into the learning experience.
Before COVID-19, CCISD had a computer for about every three students. But the pandemic accelerated the integration of technology in the classroom. During remote learning, the district was able to use state funding to purchase more devices for students to take home.
“You never know now,” Perales said. “We are all in that state now where we know that at any time we should be able to teach from anywhere.”
Learning management systems like Canvas, the system used in CCISD, allow students to access course materials in the classroom and at home.
“Every kid has a digital classroom as well as a physical classroom,” Perales said.
The Texas Education Agency has also shifted standardized testing online.
“Kids have to know on a daily basis how to utilize technology because at the end, they’re going to be tested that way,” Perales said. “Once it went all online, it was like, ‘Whoa, we need to make sure these kids do well,’ because you don’t want them to fail a test just simply because they don’t know how to work the computer.”
At the same time, more and more educational resources are online, Perales said, including digital textbooks.
Taken all together, this has created a blended learning.
“Kids need both,” Perales said. “Kids still need to use pen and paper. They still need to use manipulatives and hands-on. They still need to paint and talk and collaborate with their peers one-on-one. That is a given. But then you also want to bring technology.”
Technology can allow teachers to view and analyze student work quicker, Perales said. It can also encourage increased participation.
Platforms like Nearpod allow for interactive lessons and activities, Perales said, allowing every student to interact with materials. One Nearpod activity allows students to compete in quiz games.
“There are times when the same kids are raising their hands, the same kids, and when I taught, I always wanted to make sure every kid was learning, not just the ones that were eager,” Perales said. “With that particular application (Nearpod’s Time to Climb quiz games), every kid has to participate but they aren’t having to put their hand up.”
Sessions for educators covered digital learning tools and game-based activities, educational video resources, college and career readiness software, digital libraries, online curriculums, student engagement tools, data and organization tools, artificial intelligence and design and video tools.
“Everything that the teachers are learning is how to get the kids involved in technology,” Perales said.
Technology tips for Corpus Christi ISD families
Other sessions tailored for parents as well focused on mental health, college and career readiness, how to access standardized test results and understanding the district’s digital parent platforms.
In a Tech2Parents presentation, Title 1 implementation specialists Brandi Shaddock and Eva Garcia shared information about technology tools for parents, including Canvas, Home Access Center and Rapid Identity.
Canvas is a learning management system. Students can access assignments and teacher announcements from Canvas. Parents can see that same information, but teachers can also send messages specifically for family members through the guardian “observer” account.
If a guardian has multiple children in CCISD, the parent can see information for all of their children in one place.
In Home Access Center, parents can sign up for notifications about attendance and tardies. In Rapid Identity, students can access textbooks and digital tools used in the classroom.
These three programs are integrated, so if a parent knows how to access one of these platforms, they should be able to get into the others, Shaddock said.
“Canvas talks to Home Access Center and Home Access Center talks back to Canvas,” Shaddock said. “It’s a wonderful, one-stop shop.”
If a parent or guardian has a question about how to access information about their student, there are several individuals at each Corpus Christi ISD campus who can help, including parent liaisons, librarians or a campus instructional technology chair.
“This is their way of staying involved,” Browne Middle School parent liaison Angelita Rivera said. “(Parents) can say, ‘You missed your assignment today’ and have that information at your fingertips without having to go into the campus and talk to the teacher.”
If a guardian doesn’t have access to technology at home, they can also contact a parent liaison or visit the school to look up their student’s information.
“The parent liaison can help lead them to the information that’s available to them,” Carroll High School parent liaison Iliana Ortiz said.
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