Bridging Instruction and Technology

How One School District Is Helping Teachers

Picture this: Dozens of teachers, administrators and IT professionals have convened in southwest Florida to learn and share information on the latest innovations in classroom technology. Lenovo is there, as are BrainPOP, Microsoft, Lenovo Software and numerous other vendors.

IMG_1852The agenda for the event is filled with an abundance of opportunities to learn about the latest and greatest methods for enhancing teaching through technology.

Only this wasn’t a big-budget conference. It’s the brainchild of a three-person instructional technology specialist team serving the Sarasota County School District.

For years, these specialists — Katie Schunk, Adam Gardner and Linda Loonam — have attended Florida’s Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC).  

Then, one day, it hit them: Why not create something similar in their own backyard?

“The more sessions we attended and vendors we talked to, the more we were convinced that our own teachers could gain a lot of valuable insight by doing the same,” Schunk explained. “The problem is that many of them are unable to take time away from the classroom to attend FETC.” 

That’s when BIT entered the scene.

We decided to build our own FETC-style conference and give more of Sarasota’s teachers an opportunity to learn new and creative ways to leverage the power of technology in classroom instruction,” said Loonam.

The result is Bridging Instruction and Technology, or BIT for short. Now in its second year, this one-day county conference offers teachers and administrators a close-to-home chance to learn from peers and discover district-supported applications such as Office 365 and LanSchool.

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It all made a big impression on the team here at Lenovo Software. So we decided to ask the Sarasota tech team for suggestions to share with other school districts. If you’re thinking of offering something similar for your schools, here’s what they recommend:

1.  Look to your own staff for topics when building the agenda.

The theme for BIT is “Real teachers. Real experiences.” Why? Because teachers are the ones spending time with students in the classroom day after day. They know which tools and tactics resonate, and in many cases they’ve already come up with creative new ways to incorporate technology. At BIT, some of the best topics have come from teachers who submitted their own ideas for consideration.LanSchool_Teacher_16-highrez

2.  Get specific with software tips and tutorials.

Some of the most popular sessions to date have been the ones that featured specific classroom technology vendors. For example, BIT attendees have learned how to minimize distractions with LanSchool, plan lessons with Office 365, create assignments using BrainPOP and meet special needs with Google extensions and apps.

3.  Make it accessible for all levels.

At BIT, sessions are categorized based on intended audiences and ages. By using a similar structure, you can help ensure your event offers plenty of opportunities for instructors at various grade levels. You might create separate tracks for elementary, middle school and high school instructors — or you could simply note on each agenda item which grades are most likely to benefit from a particular topic.

What about you? What is your district doing to help teachers learn new ways to weave technology into classroom instruction?

We’d love to hear your ideas on Twitter and LinkedIn. Learn More 

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