Mike Hanson started teaching on typewriters, and now his students have cellphones with more power than the computer that guided the Apollo 11 lunar module.
Keeping up is a challenge for the De Soto High School business teacher, but it’s something he needs to do as he prepares young minds for life after graduation, Hanson said.
Attempting to stay current, Hanson joined other educators Friday in La Crosse at the 108th annual Western Wisconsin Education Conference. The event’s technology focus this year was designed to help area instructors adjust to the changing demands of the classroom.
“I’m trying to find new ways to present old information,” Hanson said. “Basic business strategies are the same. They really haven’t changed, but how you present them has changed.”
Teachers and college students gathered with tech experts at the La Crosse Center for the event, billed as BYOD — bring your own device.
Responding to requests from area educators, organizers decided to change the form of this year’s conference to focus completely on technology training. Sessions were longer, and the usual keynote address was scrapped to give teachers more time to train on the new gadgets taking over classrooms, conference coordinator Stephanie Fraase said.
The event is also a good training opportunity for districts investing in technology, Fraase said. Onalaska voters approved $2.5 million in extra technology spending Tuesday for their local public schools, to be spent over the next five years, and La Crosse district officials have included about $412,000 in yearly tech spending on the district’s next operating referendum, up for a vote in April.
“They’re putting this money into technology,” Fraase said. “They just want to make sure teachers are using it correctly.”
Molly Kroseberg, 20, is an education major at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and any technology she eventually uses in the classroom will depend on where she lands after graduation. Tablet tucked in the crook of her arm, Kroseberg looked forward to a couple of sessions: a class on using the iPad in special education classrooms, and a workshop on SMART boards.
“I’m glad it’s a push here at the conference,” Kroseberg said. “They’re not used really the way they could be.”
Evan Pagel, 25, held his tablet over a book and watched as a 3-D shark appeared to jump off the screen. The effect is possible thanks to an “augmented reality” application on Pagel’s tablet, designed to read an image on the book and translate it into a breathtaking visual.
“I think it’s revolutionary, really,” Pagel said. “I think it changes everything we think about education in the first place.”
Pagel hopes the session about how to use the iPad for hands-on learning will come in handy in the future. A student in UW-L’s school psychology graduate program, Pagel was on the look out for technology-based ideas he could recommend to teachers when he becomes a school psychologist.
Learning is becoming more individualized, more technology-based, but teachers still need to teach, Fraase said. Schools in La Crosse, West Salem and Bangor have introduced one-to-one technology initiatives that put a laptop or tablet in the hands of each and every student.
“Once you get the iPad, what do you do?” Fraase said. “Instruction is still key.”
“Once you get the iPad, what do you do? Instruction is still key.” Stephanie Fraase, conference coordinator