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Lesson in technology

Profile image for By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer
By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer

Conference teaches how to actively engage students in the classroom

In a session this week on integrating technology and actively engaging students, teachers were each encouraged to be the “best intellectual thief” they could be and use that brainpower to benefit students.

The room of about 25 educators at Denton’s LaGrone Advanced Technology Complex were asked to recall the name of the server at the last restaurant they visited. Many could remember the name of the restaurant, their order and details about the interior, but only one could recall his server’s name after visualizing his receipt.

The instructor likened that recall ability to a student taking a multiple-choice standardized test. Students may remember generalities taught during the school year, but at times cannot recall specific facts for an exam.

With a series of online games, teachers were introduced to ways to teach students how to work with money, fractions and other subjects while also tracking their proficiency. Teachers were encouraged to use technology as a way to support instruction, motivate students and to help them visualize the content and context being taught to them so that what they learn sticks.

That message was a common theme at the fourth annual Lone Star Technology in Action (TIA) conference, held Tuesday and Wednesday at the LaGrone complex. In dozens of sessions and workshops, attendees — including the general public as well as educators — learned about various ways of using technology and how integrating technology in the classroom can enhance learning.

In between sessions, business vendors promoted their products while conference attendees gathered in person and on Twitter to talk about ideas, applications and Web tools they had learned about.

According to the Denton school district, which hosted the event, 1,200 people registered for the conference, its largest crowd to date. About 300 even showed up for early-bird sessions at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

For the opening and closing sessions, seats were placed in a conference room and flowed out into the main foyer in order to accommodate all the attendees.

The growing conference attendance proved to be a challenge, said Barry Fox, instructional technology director for the Denton district.

“Because we’re growing in popularity, we’re working hard to make sure we have enough seating in our general sessions,” he said. “It’s a wonderful problem to have.”

Some attendees were drawn by the cost and close proximity.

Argyle High School teacher Kimberly Kass, a first-time attendee, registered after hearing positive things about the conference from others.

“I thought it was an excellent opportunity to learn about some of the new technology that’s available for the classroom,” said Kass, who teaches chemistry. “And I already use a lot of technology in the classroom, but there’s always more that you can incorporate or find what fits better. And being that this conference was local, it made it very convenient.”

While she spent part of the time familiarizing herself with ways to communicate with students in a “blended learning experience,” some of her former students from Argyle High participated in Adobe Photoshop training, she said. She plans to attend again.

“I think there was something for everybody so it didn’t matter if you were elementary or secondary,” Kass said. “I just think it’s wonderful that there was such a variety that they could bring presenters to meet the need of the community at large, as well as educators.”

Leona Eimandoust, another first-time attendee, said she regrets not attending the conference sooner.

Eimandoust, an inclusion paraprofessional at Denton’s Rivera Elementary School, said she accomplished her goal of catching up on technologies her daughter uses. She felt she was more empowered to take what she learned and jotted down in notes to use on the job.

“I’m just so overwhelmed by everything,” Eimandoust said. “There was so much to offer in workshops. We got something out of each one.”

For educators, Fox said Lone Star TIA is just the starting line.

“Our job now is to take this excitement and take the learning into our schools, into our classrooms, so that we can change the lives of our students,” he said.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.