Union District Student WITS Speak at Legislative Forum - The Missourian: Union

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Union District Student WITS Speak at Legislative Forum

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Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 1:32 pm

The word “wit” is associated with astuteness and intelligence.

It’s only appropriate, then, that the Union School District student Wildcat Instructional Technologists (WITs) were tasked with speaking to state superintendents and legislators about how the district is integrating technology into its learning spaces.

The idea of the WIT program was born this summer, said Josh Hall, instructional technology specialist.

“We had scheduling flexibility and we thought this would be a good opportunity to empower the kids,” he said. “As it turns out, the kids do a lot of the directing.”

Though the class is young in stages of development, Hall said there is a lot of curriculum and the class offers students many opportunities.

One such opportunity is speaking on technology integration with state superintendents and legislators earlier this month.

Three members of the class, Kristina Ingersoll, Colleen Stokes and Chris Tuschhoff, attended the session, held in the state Capitol.

“Technology has always been a significant part of education,” Hall said. “We started by talking about how we wanted to improve with technology and how using technology for technology’s sake isn’t going to help students grow in the learning process.”

The school district uses multiple platforms, he explained, including through Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), where students are allowed to bring technology into the classroom.

Allowing multiple types of devices introduces students to different technology and makes students comfortable with the various technology.

Students also addressed the SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. The model incorporates substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition (SAMR).

The idea is that in the first phase, substitution, there is no functional change, such as in switching from using a paper and pencil to a laptop to do the same task. As the idea, or technology, progresses — with augmentation, there is functional improvement. In the next phase, there is significant task redesign, followed by redefinition with a “previously inconceivable task.”

Students can now share documents with one another worldwide through Google apps for education, which Hall said is a “significant innovator of technology in education.”

They can collaborate and exchange ideas without having to print out papers.

The WIT students also spoke to legislators and school superintendents about the Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) being offered at the high school this semester. The pilot program has about a dozen students, each taking a different class.

Students are provided resources and class time to take an open online course under the supervision of a teacher. The classes, which are offered by various universities, are pass or fail. Options of classes are endless.

“They’ll be one step ahead as they go into their collegiate years,” Hall said.

At the legislative program, Justin Tarte, director of curriculum and support services, said the goal was to present what the district is doing and showing that the district’s kids are a part of society’s technological change.

“We don’t want our kids to walk into school and feel like they need to ‘power down.’ ” Tarte said. “Technology is making so many things possible that were never possible before. We’re not going to ban or ignore technology in life. We’re going to embrace it and be proactive in our approach to help them use it effectively and appropriately.”

Hall said that the district has not “solved the technology puzzle,” but the district has a willingness to move forward.

The talk with legislators was the first on such a large scale, but the students are used to talking to adults.

The WITS play a role in teaching teachers.

On professional development days, WIT students will talk with the teachers about something they’ve been working on in class, as well as ideas on integrating technology into their classrooms.

“They do it in a way that’s friendly and inviting,” Hall said.

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