Local teachers recently saw how their computers can bring their students face-to-face with astronauts.
With Skype video conferencing, students can talk with astronauts — or any other expert around the world — instantly through their computer. Teachers also can use Skype to arrange virtual tours of towns and facilities from their classrooms.
That means teacher Cindy King can take Needham Elementary School’s fourth-graders on tours of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio without leaving Franklin.
Franklin Community High School was host for the Skype training session and other courses as part of its fourth annual Summer Technology Institute. More than 600 teachers attended the conference, up from about 200 in 2009, Franklin technology integration specialist Brandi Rund said.
King and Creekside Elementary School teacher Donna Fowler said the institute’s courses are essential for today’s teachers, whether they’ve taught for two years or 20.
“We’re moving into a technology type of world. It’s with us, and it’s not going to go away,” Fowler said.
The institute was designed for all teachers and staff, regardless whether they know how to use tablets, video conferencing and online courses. The goal was to get people more comfortable with these devices.
Online learning, iPads and wireless technology eventually will be classroom staples, if they aren’t already, Clark-Pleasant technology director Jim White said.
“These things aren’t going away,” he said.
Staff from all Johnson County schools were invited to attend the conference, and this year Franklin technology director Matt Sprout also invited districts in Shelbyville and Martinsville.
This year’s conference was paid for through a $15,000 grant White applied for through the Indiana Department of Education, and teachers and staff attended for free.
In March, Franklin sent surveys to teachers throughout the county asking them what topics they were most interested in learning about. Video conferencing and iPads received the most requests.
King has been a teacher for 20 years but said she needs the conference to show her the best way to use tablets, video conferencing and the Internet in the classroom, she said.
“I feel more like a first-year teacher sometimes when it comes to the technology aspect,” she said.
In this era of tight finances and property tax caps, it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, for school districts to send teachers to summer training workshops. So the recent Summer Technology Institute in Franklin is an excellent example of local educators helping each other and offering valuable technical training.