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Estevan teachers check out future of education technology in New Orleans

Two teachers from Estevan recap their experiences from convention in New Orleans.
Holy Family bd office-4168
Office for the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division.

WEYBURN - Two Estevan teachers were able to learn about future technology for educators while taking in a conference recently in New Orleans.

Kaitlyne Graham of Sacred Heart School/École Sacré Coeur and Marla Thompson from St. Mary’s School gave an online presentation to the board of trustees at the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division’s monthly meeting on April 18.

Thompson noted they attended a number of educational sessions each, and made sure they were all different to cover as much information as possible.

The trustees were told about new artificial intelligence (AI) programs available to educators, such as one that will help students write poetry.

“It’s coming more into play in the world,” said Graham, before treating the trustees to a demonstration of the ChatGPT app to demonstrate how AI works.

After providing some basic facts, the app wrote approximately 200 words about the teachers’ presentation to the board about the conference.

“It’s a very interesting thing as you play around with it,” said Thompson, adding, “You have to be very clear about what you want. It’s useful when you want to save time to find pictures for a presentation.”

To encourage student engagement, there are programs like a book creator, which allows students to become authors of their own work, and to show what they can do.

Thompson also noted she tried a digital escape room, a program that can be used for teaching a variety of things, including Canadian geography.

“It allowed me to have fun with it without burning myself out,” she said. “The first time I did it, it took a couple of hours, but the kids got through it and had fun. I sent it to their parents so they could see how well they could do.”

Graham talked about a workshop she took for a program called Canva.

“I can’t believe the amount of extra information I learned, even since coming back from the conference. It can be interactive and can make posters, timelines and a presentation,” she said.

Graham teaches French immersion to Grades 5 and 6 students, and noted with this program they were able to create mash up videos.

“Kids from all over North America sent in their songs and memes to go with it,” she added, pointing out she was able to give students and parents a lot of information, and hopes to be using Canva in her classroom next year.

“They offer a teacher free use of Canva. You can submit assignments right on the program. It was amazing,” she said.

Another session she took was on “sketchnoting”, a new method for taking notes that even university students have been using.

As an example for her class, they watched Anne of Green Gables and read the book, and heard a podcast on it, with students using sketchnoting to take notes about it.

Another app was called “wakelet”, which is a new way to collect information and pictures about a topic and keep them all in one place, similar to Pinterest. The example she showed was research and photos for a presentation by a student on turtles, which even included a video from National Geographic.

“We also went to hear keynote speakers, and spent a couple of hours between sessions to hear them,” said Thompson.

“I learned a new way to use quizzes and Google Earth,” added Graham. “These were extra things not in our sessions.”

The teachers also had some opportunities to sightsee around New Orleans and take in the music and food in different places. They also attended a basketball game.

“It was an amazing experience. I can’t believe how much I learned,” said Graham.

“It was like a breath of fresh air, with all sorts of things that we can try. It was a lot of fun to have that knowledge shared with me and with my colleagues. I really appreciated going,” added Thompson.

“I was really impressed with how you took what you learned and applied it in your classroom,” commented director of education Gwen Keith, noting that AI will be used extensively in the school division in the future. “This is transformative, making changes in all sorts of areas.”

Trustee Jerome Sidloski commented the information was inspiring and exciting, “and a little bit scary at the same time.”

“It’s exciting when we have people go to these conferences and bring that knowledge back,” said Keith.