One hundred teachers nationwide recently received the 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator award, which provides one year of professional development and, for the top 16, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for participation in a Digital Summit in June 2014.
Teacher Tech interviewed one of the winners, Ann Kohler, who teaches a self-contained classroom of mild-intellectually-disabled 9th to 12th graders at South Forsyth High in Forsyth, Ga.
Q. Have you always used technology in the classroom? What prompted you to do so?
A. I began using technology in the classroom very heavily in 2011 when some of my students walked into the first day of school with these cool tools called iPads! They began teaching me and I began learning, and since then the learning goes back and forth daily, between something new they saw or learned on their devices or something I found the night before while searching apps or in an article I read. Our school has been a huge BYOT (bring your own technology) school for almost five years now, which helps a lot because we have a great wireless infrastructure to handle the bandwith.
Q. What tech tools do you use and in what instances?
A. We use desktops, laptops, (both PC and Mac), iPods, iPads, Google Nexus7 and Samsung Galaxy Android tablets, iPhones, Droid smartphones, and anything else that the students may have and can bring to school. I have a teacher iPad provided by my county.
Q. What tech tools have you found the most success with?
A. iPads are great unless you need “Flash” — which you need a lot. That’s where the non-Apple devices come in.
My students will work on any surface. Some take a Socrative quiz on their phones and other students prefer the desktop or their tablet.
For one class project, students made a picture collage about The Odyssey with pictures they found and labeled from the Internet. Each chapter we read was a new adventure. Online math has also been fabulous and my students use a different online math product or app daily. Some good ones are MobyMath, Sumdog, Khan Academy, Manga High, iXL.
Q. Have you noticed an increase in student performance because of your use of technology? If so, how much?
A. Yes, when I did my thesis paper last year I documented the results of pre-testing and post-testing for some specific online math sites. My students ALL increased their post test scores over their pre-test scores. Some more than others, but they ALL showed quantifiable improvement. I also see these types of results on English and Vocabulary related sites. However, the ELA sites are not currently quite as good as the math sites in showing real time data, so math is easier to get very drilled down data. My students’ scores in math increased from 5 percent on the low end to 1½ grade years (in one year) on the high end.