Technology for Educational Empowerment
By Sara Swann
“We need to stop divorcing creativity from technology in the classrooms,” Illah R. Nourbakhsh said at the Full STEAM Ahead Statewide Technology Conference on Thursday, July 17.
Nourbakhsh is professor of Robotics, director of the Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) lab, and head of the Robotics Masters Program in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.
The Full STEAM Ahead Statewide Technology Conference took place at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown July 15-17, where numerous sessions for educators were offered, such as learning with eBooks and creating with 3D printers.
Nourbakhsh was one of the many prestigious guest speakers at the conference and in his keynote speech to an audience of approximately 400 educators he explored different opportunities for learning in schools where students use both technology and their creativity.
Before Nourbakhsh’s keynote speech, a panel of seven students from across the state discussed their experiences with technology in schools.
The Student Voices Panel included Kristine Gessel, a high school graduate from Putnam County who will be attending the University of Kentucky in the fall; Kaitlyn Goins, a graduate student at West Virginia University; Brennan Lawless, a rising freshman from Raleigh County; Destiny Meador, a rising freshman from Tucker County; Jane Purkey, a rising sixth grader from Jackson County; Sara Swann, a high school graduate from Greenbrier County who will be attending Syracuse University in the fall; and Jarred Whitt, a rising sophomore from Greenbrier County.
The seven students were asked to talk about the different types of technology that they use at home and in school, an activity they did last year that was the most fun to create with that technology, and what they would like to see teachers do differently with technology.
Technology, such as iPads, netbooks, smartphones, and both PC and Mac computers, in addition to Microsoft Office, Adobe InDesign. Prezi presentation software, and Dragon speech recognition software were all discussed by the students at the conference.
One student brought attention to a major need for mandatory keyboarding classes since last year she completed the online WESTEST without knowing how to type properly.
Another student talked about how not all of the computers in her school had software that was up to date and some computers had different versions of the software. She explained that this caused problems when trying to complete various projects and assignments.
The topic of smartphones being allowed in classrooms was also brought up by a student who pointed out that all of the apps available on smartphones provide an abundance of educational resources.
After the students finished their discussions, the moderators, Teresa Eagle from Marshall University and Dale Niederhauser from West Virginia University, allowed the audience to ask the students questions.
An audience member asked the students about online assignments which could be completed at home essentially eliminating snow days. In response, the problem of some students not having internet access at home was addressed. The West Virginia Department of Education is well aware of this need and has made getting broadband internet access to every home in West Virginia one of their goals.
As a thank you for participating in the Student Voices Panel, all seven students were presented with brand new Windows Surface tablets.
For more information about the Full STEAM Ahead Statewide Technology Conference, visit conference.wvnet.edu.