300 gather for ‘Applemania’ conference on digital learning

GREENFIELD — Hundreds of local teachers became students this week, soaking up digital and social media possibilities that will become theirs with one-to-one computing this fall.

The inaugural Applemania conference was conducted at Greenfield Central Junior High School on Thursday and Doe Creek Middle School on Friday, attracting mostly Greenfield-Central and Southern Hancock teachers who looked to discover new ways to incorporate technology in their classrooms.

Since Southern Hancock teachers already use Apple products at all grade levels and Greenfield-Central High School teachers will start using MacBook Airs next school year, educators were filled with a mix of apprehension and excitement over the one-to-one computer movement, where all students are issued a take-home computer.

“The first year, you’re going to be staying above water,” New Palestine High School teacher Kate Judy told a couple of Greenfield-Central teachers during a lunch break Thursday. “Then you realize, ‘The kids know this better than you do.’ I’ve asked for their help.”

Judy, a French teacher, was chatting with Greenfield-Central High School teachers Peggy Brown and Kathleen Burke.

Both said they’re as ready as can be for the switchover to one-to-one computing but are still eager to learn more.

“We know they’re a great tool, but how do you use it?” said Burke, a special education teacher.

Such conversations were golden to organizers of the conference, who hoped for a collaboration of ideas from teachers across the state.

“We wanted to have sessions for teachers at all different levels,” said Amanda Hoagland, technology integration specialist for Southern Hancock schools.

Hoagland said she was pleased with the turnout — more than 300 teachers signed up from across the state. Greenfield-Central and Southern Hancock schools worked together on securing Hancock County as one of 23 sites for such “Summer of eLearning” conferences in the state. The local conference was dubbed “Applemania” for its product focus and included dozens of one-hour sessions.

“We’re focusing on MacBooks, iPads and Google apps for education,” Greenfield-Central assistant superintendent Christy Hilton said, adding that a $19,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Education’s Office of eLearning paid for the speakers.

Greenfield-Central High School English teacher Rebekah Cerqua already uses Twitter with her students and is eager to learn more, while English teacher Jennifer Northouse said she’s looking forward to more project-based teaching since she currently uses a lot of individual research papers in her teaching.

“I’m excited to learn about new alternatives for the old assignments,” she said.

Greenfield-Central math teachers Todd Degler and Aaron Smith said they’re simply trying to figure out how they can incorporate technology in their classrooms, and their students feel the same way.

“I’ve had several tell me, especially for math, they’d rather write things down,” Smith said. “But others say, ‘Oh you can do this and this.’”

Seth and Rachael Tripp were learning differently: Rachael Tripp, a New Palestine High School chemistry teacher, was learning how she could continue to improve her digital teaching. Her husband, a Tri-Central Middle/High School teacher, was coming up with ideas for when his school launches one-to-one computing in the 2016-17 school year.

“I know I want to try to flip my classroom a little more,” Rachael Tripp said, describing the technique where students watch the lecture at home in order to have more time for group learning at school. “You get more of the discussion and hands-on activities in class. I’ve done it a couple times, but I want to do more.”

Lucy Gellert, Greenfield-Central director of library services, gave her peers lessons on social media, research and motivation through technology. She said the district’s teachers, for the most part, are excited about launching the one-to-one computer program this upcoming school year.

“Just today’s world, it is so connected that you have to have technology,” she said.

Keynote speaker James Beeghley told teachers they should discover how their students are living with technology daily to incorporate it in the classroom, whether it be through social media, YouTube videos or applications. He encouraged the group to think creatively and connect with experts from around the world.

“You can Skype with students in Kenya. You can take your students on a virtual tour of the Battle of Gettysburg. … You can do virtual pen pals and talk to kids in Scotland,” said Beeghley, a Pennsylvania-based educational technologist. “Education happens everywhere. It doesn’t have to be in the four walls of a stuffy classroom. It can happen anywhere and everywhere.”