These area teachers ended their holiday breaks early this week. Here’s why.

More than two dozen Lakota school teachers volunteered to end their holiday break early by taking classes to help them better use learning technology in their classrooms.

The teachers gathered for a day-long class Wednesday at Lakota East High School as part of a six-month, International Society for Technology in Education certification class conducted by instructors from the Butler County Educational Services Center.

The ISTE professional development program is the first of its type in Ohio, Lakota officials said.

The goal is to become more proficient at using the latest internet and digital learning devices and strategies to offer a greater variety of learning platforms for their students.

If a teacher wants to set up a Skype video link with an author overseas whose book was just read by students, this training will make that possible.

Or perhaps students aren’t proficient at submitting a written report on a class assignment but would be more engaged if their work is presented in podcast or via a home-made video or incorporationg graphic illustrations, instructors said.

“The standards ISTE puts forward are really strong in changing teacher practices … as they embed technology and use technology to enhance learning,” said Georgine Bowman, curriculum director for BCESC, which serves Butler County’s 10 public school systems.

“There are all kinds of a different ways we can use technology in the classrooms. There are now different ways we can open up the world through technologies but it also allows them to express themselves differently. It gives students more choices on how they produce their work but you have to start with training the teachers.”

The professional development program, which costs each teacher $750 and will grant graduate-level credits to those instructors who successfully earn ISTE certification, is the latest variation on digital reforms being tried by Lakota Schools.

Helen Vassiliou, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Adena Elementary, said the instruction in new ways to incorporate digital teaching and learning in classrooms allows new ways “to showcase what students can do.”

“We can transform their learning and this is a perfect opportunity … to build engagement and critical thinking,” said Vassiliou. “I have to do better for the kids I work with.”

Keith Koehne, executive director of curriculum and instruction for Lakota, said “this is a very unique opportunity to invest in our teachers with professional learning and incentives directly tied to the (district’s) new strategic plan.”

The ISTE classes “provide a deep dive into the topic areas and are taught with a … mindset where participants will be expected to design exemplary learning environments,” said Koehne.

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