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Posted: July 5, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Keeping up with the times

Conference to showcase and train for technology in the classroom

Teachers — new and veteran — school board administration and other interested parties from Newton and surrounding counties will convene at the end of the month to prepare for and learn about technology opportunities in the classroom.
The Fifth Annual Teach for Tomorrow Summer Technology Conference will showcase classroom technological programs, train teachers and offer workshops on July 23 and 24 at Newton High School, located at 1 Ram Way in Covington, starting at 8:30 a.m. each day.

“It’s showcasing what we do in Newton County,” said Melissa Jackson, instructional technology coordinator for Newton County Schools (NCSS).

The first day of the event, which is hosted by the NCSS and its technology department, will hold workshops and breakout sessions for teachers, administrators and media specialists to see what is available in the classroom, including SAFARI Montage, VIEWpath, ClassFlow and My Big Campus, the portal teachers and students use to collaborate with each other.

Jackson said the two-hour workshops will introduce participants to everything that is available, leading into the second day when teachers will receive training with their devices and learn how to incorporate these technologies directly into lesson plans.

A new offering in the schedule this year is a keynote address given on the first day by Kim Bearden, the 2000 National Teacher of the Year and co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy. According to the NCSS, Bearden was named one of Georgia’s Most Powerful and Influential Women in 2008 by Women Works Media Group.

The NCSS is giving away a free copy of Bearden’s newest book, “Crash Course: Life Lessons My Students Taught Me,” to the first 500 people to attend the conference.

Jackson said people from other school districts are registering to attend because Newton County is the “only district in the area to do something like this.”

The conference has grown from 125 participants in the first year to more than 325 last year, according to the NCSS. Coordinators are expecting more than 500 this year. Jackson said as of two weeks ago, registration was up to 340 participants, not including the about 200 new teachers who will attend.

In previous years, new teacher orientation was held on the same day as this conference, but orientation now is taking place the day before, allowing the large number of new teachers to jump right in.

NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said teachers who are not returning in August have given several reasons for leaving, including increased salary and benefits for the same position somewhere else, relocation, promotion, new family obligations and personal reasons. She said the list is in no particular order but that salary and benefits were “communicated on several occasions.”

“The Teach for Tomorrow Conference is an excellent opportunity for our employees to learn more about exemplary technology practices that support our strategy of technology integration,” Fuhrey said. “This year, on the first day of the conference, we have included sessions geared to support our new teachers; it is important that educators new to the Newton County School System understand our expectations regarding the integration of relevant student use of technology into daily instruction.

“This conference has received ‘high marks’ regarding relevance and demonstration of progressive instructional techniques.”

Instructional Technology Coordinator Jackson said some sessions were specifically designed for new teachers, while others will be specifically for experienced teachers.

“Even the experienced teachers, we’re trying to allow them to become more innovative in the classroom,” Jackson said. “Be more creative. See what they can do.”

There will be a vendor hall for the first time this year, Jackson said. Small businesses that have showed support to the school district will have tables throughout the conference.

Having vendors allows the school district to refrain from charging attendees, Jackson said. However, out-of-district participants will be asked to pay $10 a day to cover their lunch, which will be provided by Chik-Fil-A and Bullritos.
“With all of the new teachers,” Jackson said, “it can be a good way to showcase what is available in the community.

“We really have become a leader in innovative technology. We have people from all over the country who have come to see what we’re doing. We want our teachers to be able to showcase what they’re doing so well.”

To register for the conference online, go to surveymonkey.com/s/NCSST4T14.

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