“We couldn’t replace those worms”: School of Education hosts conference on the potential, and limits, of technology in the k-12 classroom

NYed-Hub Keynote Speaker Monica Burns

Monica Burns was working as a teacher in New York City, looking out at a classroom that had a bin full of new iPads in one corner, and a bin full of worms working their way through a compost pile in another, when she had an epiphany.

“We couldn’t replace those worms – you can’t drop a banana peel into a cart of iPads and watch it magically turn into richer soil,” Burns said. “I love thinking about that, because it’s a great reminder to consider why we’re choosing a website or an app to bring into the classroom.”

Burns, now a curriculum and education technology consultant, shared this anecdote during her keynote address at the NYedHub: P-20 Tech Conference, May 23 on the SUNY New Paltz campus.

Her story gets at the core of the purpose of the conference, and the challenge many teachers are facing in a rapidly modernizing world: exciting education technology is entering more and more k-12 classrooms, but the tech alone does not automatically create positive learning outcomes – and teachers are feeling increasing pressure to integrate these new tools in thoughtful and purposeful ways.

“In today’s fast paced, ever-changing digital world, we have to try our best to stay up to date and relevant with technology developments,” said Aaron Isabelle, associate dean for the School of Education. “This does not mean we have to embrace every new development, but rather that we need to prioritize the changes in technology that can assist our existing teaching practices.”

From left: Carissa Punkosdy ’20, Brianna Vaughan ’20, Kiersten Greene, Liz Brennan ’19, Amy DelCorvo

New Paltz’s School of Education is emerging as a leading resource for present and future educators looking to bring strategic technology usage into their classrooms.

Led by Assistant Professor Kiersten Greene, whose teaching and research focuses on both literacy instruction and digital pedagogy and policy, the College has forged partnerships with tech-focused organizations like the New York State Association for Computers and Technology in Education (NYSCATE), the Mid-Hudson Teacher Center and the NYS Master Teacher Program.

The NYedHub Conference was a culmination of years of this relationship building and dedicated study. Nearly 200 education professionals and preservice candidates came out to brainstorm innovative ways for school districts and colleges to collaborate and create meaningful learning experiences around tools and topics like digital citizenship, virtual reality, robotics and data inquiry.

“We all know the importance of bridging the gap between k-12 and higher ed,” said Amy DelCorvo, CEO and executive director of NYSCATE. “This partnership with SUNY New Paltz has been absolutely seamless, and on behalf of all of NYSCATE I want to say thank you, because this is what we need to be doing for the future of education in New York State.”

Visit the NYedHub Conference website to review the full schedule and roster of speakers, and visit the School of Education to learn more about modern teacher and administrator training programs at SUNY New Paltz.

Check in with Monica Burns at ClassTechTips.com or follow her on Twitter.