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Improve Your Tech Skills Over the Summer

Think techies lounge by the pool, iced tea in hand, during the summer? For Education World's Tech Team, that vision doesn't match up with reality. Find out what techies really do during the summer, and learn what you can do this summer to improve your computer skills and enhance your confidence with technology. INCLUDED: More than two-dozen links to conferences, courses, workshops, online training, and more for both techies and classroom teachers.

Summer PD Opportunities

Are you ready for a week or more of intensive learning? Check out some of these terrific teacher opportunities:

S&S Online Learning

NOAA Teacher at Sea Program


Holocaust Memorial Museum's Education for Educators


November Learning's
Building Learning Communities

Photography and Digital Lab Workshops in Santa Fe, NM

Digital Media Academy

Fund for Teachers

National Endowment for the Humanities: Summer Seminars and Institutes

Education World recently asked members of its Tech Team what they'd be up to this summer. Not surprisingly, many replied that for them the "lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer" are a myth. Empty buildings, teachers with more flexible schedules, and needed equipment upgrades and purchases can make summertime the busiest time of the year for most K-12 technology departments.


One of the summer tech tasks mentioned most frequently was teacher training. Like many techies, instructional technology resource specialist Brenda Moxley will be conducting face-to-face and online workshops -- some based on Intel's Teach to the Future program -- for the teachers at her school. Julie Timmons and Stewart Crais will focus on training teachers new to their schools, and Rusty Sinclair will be collaborating on creating a "train the trainer" program for use throughout the state of Texas.

Just what do techies do in those teach-the-teacher sessions? Judy Rutledge helps teachers develop projects that fit with their own curriculum. Lucy Gray uses the time to teach digital content to preservice and inservice teachers at National-Louis University.


Crais, Gray, and Timmons, along with Pamela Livingston, Lori Sanborn, Fred Holmes, and Betty Wilson will take advantage of their empty buildings to improve campus hardware and software. They'll tackle such necessary tasks as

  • upgrading servers;
  • replacing labs;
  • wiring new buildings;
  • installing new software;
  • performing computer and server maintenance;
  • cleaning up files;
  • refreshing (replacing old with new) computers;
  • setting up student management programs for the upcoming year;
  • updating user accounts;
  • imaging machines as well as cleaning their cases, storing them, and, often, bringing them right back out a few months later!

Several Tech Team members, including Gray, Sanborn, and Tom Haynes will use the time to upgrade school and personal Web pages. Sanborn writes, "I start by taking a worldwide Internet cruise of other school Web sites for inspiration. That's often followed by the purchase of a new Web page building program (such as Dreamweaver) and an update of my knowledge of Web page creation.


Conferences give techies and teachers alike a chance to recharge their batteries and explore new ideas. Moxley and Jennifer Wagner plan to attend the National Educational Computing Conference, presented by the International Society for Technology in Education. Gray agrees that this is THE conference for techies, adding, "It's the one place I can count on receiving some higher level professional development. I also use the conference to focus on a particular new technology that interests me -- such as blogging."

Haynes, Wagner, and Paul Aldridge will be at the Laptop Institute at Lausanne, a conference designed to facilitate the growth of laptop technologies in education. Sinclair also is hosting two conferences, one for technology coordinators and another for campus technology specialists for Texas K-12 schools and districts.

Meanwhile, Moxley, Gray, Haynes, Rutledge, and Bernie Poole will be attending a variety of state, content area, or platform specific conferences.


Despite the hectic schedule of training, repairing, and attending conferences, Tech Team members also plan to spend some time on their own professional development. Rutledge plans to learn new software and determine how to best integrate it into her school's curriculum, while Sanborn will complete several free, self-directed software tutorials. Moxley will polish her skills by taking a class on developing online classes. Aldridge and Haynes will spend time preparing the courses they'll teach in the fall. Aldridge teaches two laptop-based classes, while Haynes has received a grant to collaborate on developing an Algebra II curriculum.


Is that all? Hardly! There's always one more project to keep a techie busy, including training incoming laptop students (Stewart Crais). Oh, and a few just might take a breath and relax, enjoying a few moments with their families. There's even a Tech Team baby on the way this summer!


So what if a teacher wants to polish his or her tech skills this summer? What would Ed World's team suggest?

Attend a Conference
Overwhelmingly, Tech Team members recommend that teachers go to conferences to learn more about technology. Latin teacher Melanie Northcutt writes, "When a teacher attends a conference during the school year, he or she returns to school and is immediately so busy, there's no time to practice or use what was learned. Summer offers plenty of time to get comfortable with the new technologies you learned about and might want to use in your classroom." Melanie also recommends that classroom teachers ask the tech staff for suggestions on which conferences to attend, so the techie can best match the teacher's skills and interests to the most appropriate event.

In addition to the conferences mentioned above, Pamela Livingston recommends that teachers consider attending edACCESS.

Take a Class
Moxley and Sinclair both recommend taking any classes -- locally or far away -- that pique your interest. Sinclair particularly recommends the PBS program Teacherline.

Play With Technology
Moxley suggests just spending the summer playing around with technology; Fred Holmes warns not to wait too close to the start of school, though, because learning to use software can take longer than you might think. Tom Haynes suggests that tech-savvy teachers try out Linux servers this summer! Wagner offers two great tips for learning new software. First, take advantage of many companies' 45-day trial period to "play before you pay." Second, do a Google search, typing in the name of the software plus the words "lesson plan" or "activity," to see what other teachers are doing with the same program in their classrooms.

More Tips
A few final suggestions for the teacher wanting to learn technology this summer include:

  • Set one technology goal this summer and focus your efforts on it. (Moxley)
  • Read teachers' blogs and perhaps use a free program such as Blogmeister to create your own. (Rutledge)
  • Work part-time for your school's technology department to get the "inside scoop" and increase your skills. (Haynes)
  • Join a user group such as like EdTech, or an online community such as TappedIn. (Wagner)

Finally, don't forget to take some time to relax and let your brain recharge! As Judy Rutledge notes, "Sometimes it is in the relaxed state that the best ideas pop in, and summertime gives teachers the renewed energy to tackle those great ideas."

Enjoy your summer!


Who Are They?

The Education World Tech Team includes more than 50 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed to this article:

* Paul Aldridge, upper school teacher English/Social Studies/Humanities, Pine Crest School, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
* Stewart Crais, director of technology and media Services, Lausanne Collegiate School, Memphis, Tennessee
* Fred Holmes, high school LanManager/Webmaster, Osceola Public SchoolsOsceola, Nebraska
* Pamela Livingston, head of technology, The Peck School, Morristown, New Jersey
* Jane Maness, technology integration coordinator, Harding Academy, Memphis, Tennessee
* Brenda Moxley, instructional technology resource specialist, Birmingham City Schools, Birmingham, Alabama
* Melanie Northcutt, Latin teacher, Girls Preparatory School, Chattanooga, Tennessee
* Bernie Poole, associate professor of education and instructional technology, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania
* Jane Rutledge, coordinator of educational technology, Memphis University School, Memphis, Tennessee
* Lori Sanborn, technology specialist, Rancho Las Positas School, Livermore, California
* Rusty Sinclair, Texas Computer Education Association training director, TCEA, Austin, Texas
* Julie Timmons, instructional technology specialist, Dunbar Middle School, Lynchburg, Virginia
* Jennifer Wagner, computer coordinator, Crossroads Christian School, Corona, California
* Betty Wilson, director of technology, Grace-St. Luke's School, Memphis, Tennessee


Article by Lorrie Jackson
Education World®
Copyright © Education World

Updated 05/14/2012