Grant funds local classroom outreach

A $20,000 grant given to the education department will provide local teachers with technology training among other things


Haley Sigler

Educational Technology Leadership Academy made possible by a grant received by the W&L education department.

Polli Noskova

Both Washington and Lee’s Education department and local schools are getting a tech boost.

Through a $20,000 grant, W&L’s education department will receive a classroom set of iPads and training to provide local teachers with technology skills. This grant will help develop the use of technology in teaching methods, classes and local schools.

The grant includes a classroom set of iPads for teaching W&L students methods courses, professional development training for professors Lenna Ojure and Haley Sigler and outreach to local schools to provide training for current teachers.

Outreach to the local schools allows W&L education students the opportunity to see technology in use as they complete the requirements for their majors.          

Although the local teachers have access to IT support, they usually do not have the resources or experience to troubleshoot glitchy technology. Sigler hopes that through the weeklong summer academy and additional follow-up sessions, they can “create teachers in the schools that would be experts on technology.”

Margaret Swisher, a fourth-grade teacher at Waddell Elementary, said that the program attracted her because she can learn specific techniques that she can bring back to the classroom.

“I’m lucky in that our students have access to laptops each day,” Swisher said. “However, I’ve always wanted to do more than have them use Word and Powerpoint.”

Swisher now uses an app called Remind, which sends text messages to parents to help organize classroom events. She also used a presentation builder called Animoto in her social studies class which helped create a movie-like presentation.

“I hope to in the near future have students create comics or an animated short as a tool to study the different cultures that migrated to Virginia after the success of the Jamestown settlement up to the American Revolution,” Swisher said.

The teacher education program, called the Educational Technology Leadership Academy, began with a weeklong summer course at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. The grant paid for the teachers to receive credit for the course.

Sigler led the course along with an IT instructor from each local school system. Once school started, each of the 11 teachers has three meetings with Sigler to show the changes they’ve made in the classroom and to receive feedback.

Teachers were also able to share what they learned at meetings, creating a department-wide learning experience.

In addition, the academy allowed Rockbridge County, Buena Vista, and Lexington City schools to work together to accomplish a common goal.

“It was powerful to have the three schools working together,” said Sigler.

Lori Hocker, a kindergarten teacher in Rockbridge County Schools, participated in the program. She emphasized the importance of learning to utilize technology at a young age. Having previously attended a conference on technology natives, she said that she joined the program to learn about new ways to instruct with web sites or apps appropriate for younger students.

Hocker has since used presentation applications such as Nearpod and Prezi and video downloading application Keepvid. Hocker says she has plans to implement even more technologies as the year goes by.

Stephanie Clark, who teaches music to pre-k through fourth graders and fifth and sixth grade chorus in Buena Vista schools, was also not a stranger to technology. Clark also works as the technology manager at the elementary level.

Clark said that the program was helpful because it introduced her to several new websites and apps that she had not heard of before. She also learned some simple aspects of Microsoft word that made creating documents “so much easier.”