Mobile training for Northeast Mississippi teachers

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo Middle School math teacher Connie Gusmus has seen a sea change in the role of technology in schools.
Gusmus still remembers when the Tupelo Public School District first got the Internet in its buildings and worked with computers donated by the hospital. This year, she’ll be teaching in a district in where all sixth- to 12th grade students will be supplied with laptops by the district.
“I’ve gone from being scared to teach with the Internet to teaching with a computer and showing students how to use it in real-world situations,” Gusmus said.
In preparation for that new world, Gusmus was among 41 educators who attended a Mobile Learning Workshop last week at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Participants included educators from the Tupelo and Union County School Districts, from Itawamba, Northeast and Hinds Community Colleges and from the University of Mississippi. It was designed to teach them about how to use mobile devices – cell phones, iPods and iPads – in their classrooms and how to combine the devices with Apple computer programs.
Representatives from Apple and from AT&T and Verizon led different sessions.
“We’re trying to stay abreast of educational changes that would benefit our students,” said Kathy Green, academic division head of Humanities and Social Behavioral Science at Northeast.
Brookes Mayes, a first-year teacher at Tupelo High School, said the workshop was valuable because it not only introduced teachers to new technology but gave them tips for teaching with it.
Mayes, who will teach Tupelo’s new Apple Technology classes, said she was impressed by programs that allow teachers to poll students by having them use cell phones to text their response to a certain number.
The student results then show up on a website.
“I was looking for ways to check for understanding at the end of class, and this helped me nail down a way I want to teach it,” Mayes said. “At the end of class, if we take the poll and 20 students say no and 10 say yes, I know I need to teach this a different way.”
Leslie Gaines, who teaches seventh-grade ICT1 at Myrtle, said it is important for teachers to bring technology into the classroom more.
“In their everyday lives, students are using technology more and more, and we need to bring it in,” Gaines said.
Northeast Mississippi Community College began the workshop last year, when a one-day session attracted 25 participants. This year, the program attracted 16 more educators and was spread out over three days.
“For us at Northeast, we really wanted to learn more about podcasts and mobile learning,” said Jeffrey Powell, the webmaster and technology specialist at Northeast. “It was really for us to learn, and we invited other people to come, and it has really grown.”
Several staff members from the Tupelo school district attended the workshop to prepare for the district’s new laptop initiative. While they’ve attended district-led training, many of them said that the workshop allowed them to delve deeper.
“For teachers, it is like they have gotten a big box of chocolates and they are nibbling on one or two,” said Larry Anderson, an Apple-Distinguished Educator who was among the workshop’s instructors. “Now they get to take some of those chocolates and really digest them and see how they taste.”
Jamie Baker, an instructional technology specialist for Tupelo schools, said that in addition to learning Apple programs like iMovie and GarageBand, the workshop showed how teachers could use mobile devices in their classrooms.
“I’m seeing the broad effect of mobile learning and how it is not just a part of education, but is taking over education completely,” Baker said.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.