Westonka schools staff takes part in technology academy

By Lorrie Ham Laker Correspondent

Even though summer vacation started a couple of weeks ago for Westonka students, nearly 100 teachers and administrators delayed their summer plans in order to take part in the first Annual Westonka Technology Academy (WTA).

Hosted by TILT (Technical Integration Learning Team), the academy took place at MWHS on June 13 and 14.

TILT (Technical Integration Learning Team) is comprised of 13 teachers representing each school in the Westonka District. The goals of the group, which is led by Technology Integrationist Sue Simonson, are to integrate technology programs that personalize learning and to embed 21st century skills in the Westonka curriculum.

"Technology is where our students live, so we as teachers need to become competent in this world and use 21st century tools to enhance our students’ learning," said Simonson. "The Westonka Tech Academy provided teachers with professional development to help support and change their mode of content delivery, as well as ideas to engage our students in a way that is relevant to the world they live in outside of our school brick and mortar walls."

The academy was open to all licensed teachers in the district and included classes on Google Apps, Twitter, iMovie, Chrome, Flipped Classroom, iPads, SMART Boards and Online Assessments, among others. Members of TILT led the classes.

Mark Garrison, Instructional Technology Coordinator from White Bear Lake Schools, was the opening speaker. A Google Certified Teacher, Garrison is one of 15 You Tube Star Teachers worldwide.

Jennifer Naslund, a computer skills teacher at Grandview, enjoyed learning about new tools and gadgets that are available to teachers.

"Using and implementing new technologies in the classroom not only engages students, but talks to students in their language," she said.

"The online assessment tools will be really helpful next year," said Sara Schwartz, a MWHS history teacher. "I also really liked learning about the e-portfolios and think they will be really useful as well."

"I love being exposed to new technology that makes my classroom relevant to students and allows them to take further ownership of their own learning process," said MWHS English Teacher Kate Klacan.

Hilltop speech and language therapist Lauren Garvin liked that every class was hands-on.

"Technology is incredibly useful for students with speech and language needs as a means of supplemental communication," she said.

Aaron Thorpe, a kindergarten teacher at Shirley Hills and a member of TILT, appreciated all the resources that were available.

"I think the most crucial thing I learned was the fact that we, as teachers, don’t have to be complete experts to utilize many of these tools in our class. Our students are always ready to dive into technology and are often the greatest teachers when it comes to using new media," he said. "We just have to be willing to try new things and give our students a chance to use and create with all that’s available."

TILT team members include Meagan Anderson, Sarah Morinville and Kristin Wallace from MWHS; Brenda Hoogeveen, Megan Lhotka, Julie Thomas and Roger Whaley from GMS; Michelle Hempel and Chantelle Jordahl from Hilltop; Aaron Thorpe and Sarah Wright from Shirley Hills; Kristi Woods from preschool and early childhood education; and Technology Internationalist Sue Simonson.

Sponsors of the event included Westonka Public Schools, Best Buy, Westonka Community Education, Tonka-Tek, Inc., Brocade and Vaultas.