by Tasha Candela
Expert Educator Columnist, USA
In 2011, I had the honor of participating in Microsoft’s Innovative Educator’s Forum (IEF). In order to partake, I applied to the program by outlining a class project which incorporated the use of technologies.
My project began with the idea to create electronic portfolios in a ninth-grade required class called Career/Technology Foundations. The main objective of this course is to prepare students for the world of work. Electronic portfolios were a natural fit. They provide evidence of attitudes, abilities, experiences, growth, and achievements. Moreover, electronic portfolios are an excellent way of showing off technology aptitudes, a necessary skill for the 21st century learner.
To begin the process of creating electronic portfolios, students were introduced to Weebly. Weebly is a free, easy-to-use website creator. With its drag-and-drop interface, user-friendly tools, and ability to personalize pages, students quickly became Weebly enthusiasts. Six separate, professional pages were required. While this project will not guarantee employment, it certainly will provide them with a competitive edge and a boost in self-concept.
Sharing the project with teacher leaders and across the country was a great opportunity to increase my personal learning network and boost the caliber of, not only this project, but future endeavors.
This was just my first opportunity.
In early December, I was selected to participate in Michigan’s Technology Showcase, a miniature version of the IEF. This day-long event was held in the Michigan State Capitol Building to allow lawmakers, business leaders and other citizens to see first-hand how technology is used in classrooms across Michigan. K-12 student teams, representing legislative districts from around the state, demonstrated best practices of how technology can enhance teaching and learning for the success of Michigan students.
Five talented students, Gabby Lopreiato, Megan Kovalcik, Hailey Lynch, Brooke Glass, and Dasha Jones, represented Lake Shore at the 14th annual AT&T, MACUL, TRIG Technology Showcase in the Capitol. There were poster displays, paper handouts, and digital presentations that captivated our audience and invited them to receive a personalized demonstration of our projects. There were not rubrics, grading scales, or any kind of rating system whatsoever. Instead, students were fueled by their own love for learning and the joy that comes from sharing classroom successes with others.
Since the web design competition plays such a large role in our course curriculum, we shared the finalized websites. This included a how-to create a website tutorial, an outline of the competition rules and timeline, and of course, an overview of the sponsoring organization, The Michigan Council of Women in Technology. While delivering this rehearsed, but natural conversation, students were refining their presentation skills with a real audience. The students were proud of their work and wanted others to see how different technologies can be used within a website. So when Governor Snyder, Senator Steven Bieda, and Representative Sarah Roberts stopped by to show their support, the girls were eager to impress them.
Participant Gabby Lopreiato shared, “The most enjoyable part about creating your own website is seeing other people’s reactions to your work. You work so hard for weeks and weeks on a site that essentially represents you. It’s all about being creative, and exploring different areas in the field in technology and building off of your own unique ideas to make the best site you can.” I hope Snyder, Bieda, and Roberts continue to invest in classroom technologies that promote growth in learning.
On the bus ride home, I scanned my setting to see some students curled into a ball, napping out of pure exhaustion, while others had been electrocuted with pride. Providing opportunities like this is the recipe for inspiring our students.
I am so excited to be selected again by Microsoft as an Expert Educator.
Please consider either attending or creating a technology showcase within your own state. To learn more about my experiences, please visit http://tashacandela.weebly.com/2011-ief.html and http://classroomhelp.com/showcase/.
Tasha Candela is a National Board Certified Teacher at Lake Shore High School in Saint Clair Shores. Her column Tiggerific Technology Tips runs every other Tuesday on What’s Fresh.