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Majors & Degrees

Teacher education camp builds up STEAM

June 13, 2017

“When you’re from DSU, you’re expected to know a lot about technology, even if you’re not a computer science major,” said Haley Asimakopoulos, a junior Dakota State University elementary education major from Woonsocket.

She and 14 other DSU undergraduate education majors showed that they do know a lot about technology at the June 2 DSU STEAM education camp for K-12 teachers, held on the DSU campus. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

The 2017 teachers’ camp was free for teachers, as the event supported by a state-wide grant, “The 2020 Vision: Building Research, Education, and Innovation Partnerships for South Dakota,” National Science Foundation/EPSCoR Award No. IIA-1355423, and by the state of South Dakota. 

A DSU mini-grant provided the funds for the 15 DSU students to prepare several 90-minute technology-rich, hands-on sessions for the camp, including uses for virtual reality and Twitter, the student-driven digital portfolio Seesaw and making explainer videos with Adobe Spark.

Developing the projects was a bit challenging, said Tarynn Bickett, who graduated from DSU this May with an elementary education degree. “It was different to make a lesson plan for a teacher versus a child,” said the Oldham, S.D. native, but the sessions were well-received by the 100 area teachers who attended the second annual camp.

“Technology can be overwhelming,” said attendee Lindsey Dietterle, a third-grade teacher at Madison Elementary, but after seeing resources she could take back to her classroom, she said that “the possibilities are endless. I will be back next year.”

Her colleague at Madison Elementary, Tammy Selgestad, appreciated that the sessions were “geared toward what’s accessible to us as teachers,” considering cost factors and ease of use. The DSU students and staff “steered us in the right direction” so “it was a day well spent.”

Dr. Chris Olson, DSU assistant professor in the College of Business and Information Systems introduced the teachers to new adaptive technology programs. Roughly 20 percent of students have some sort of disability, he said, either physical, cognitive, or sensory. Google Voice Typing, Microsoft One Note, Dragon Naturally Speaking, and 3Play Media are programs which help students by reading text, including closed captioning on videos, or creating transcripts. The web accessibility evaluation tool WAVE shows teachers which websites are more easily viewed by accessibility software.

Technology can also help students become global learners and collaborators, said DSU Instructor Katie Anderson. “They do that by connecting with other kids, and Mystery Skype creates that global community,” she said.

The teachers at the camp used Skype, a free video chat app, to play Mystery Skype with another teacher located somewhere in the United States. By asking yes or no questions, the teachers determined that she was located in Iowa. Anderson said the focus of the game can be changed to match all grade levels, to determine a chosen number, animal, chemical compound or location. The class who determines the answer first wins the game.

“This is great that the kids can connect with other classes from around the world,” said Kailee Schwader, a fourth-grade teacher from Howard, S.D. Garretson fifth-grade teacher Lisa Danforth plans to use the game in her social studies curriculum. It will prompt critical thinking questions, and provide a way to calculate distance by keeping track of the other schools’ locations on a map, she explained.

Elementary teachers Angela Bly and Andrea Theilen, also from Garretson, said it would be a great way for students to see other places and take virtual field trips, making it a particularly good tool for rural schools.

Camp teachers will take these new technology experiences out to about 4,000 children in the state. After graduating, the DSU education students will also take these ideas out to their classrooms, a long-term goal of the mini-grant. The faculty on the STEAM camp team, Anderson, Olson, Rob Honomichl, Jennifer Nash and Kevin Smith, hope to create a pipeline of DSU teacher alumni who will consider themselves STEAM educators, capable of creating technology-rich, STEAM projects for K-12 students. As part of the grant, these DSU students will be tracked for one year after graduation to determine how often they implement the technology compared to their peers. 

“Students come to you with imagination and a need to explore,” said Asimakopoulos. “I hope they also leave with that,” she said. “These tech tools can keep them interested.”