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'Playdate Austin' Lets Students Teach Teachers Tech

'Playdate Austin' Lets Students Teach Teachers Tech

Digitalliteracy is the main push in 21st century classrooms – smart boards, smartphones, notebooks, Chromebooks and iPads – but now, it’s the teacher’sturn to go back to school and learn how to use all these tools.

At PlaydateAustin that’s exactly what happened May 3, 2014. Educators came toDecker Elementary in the Manor Independent School District (ISD) for a “playdate”that was a free, hands-on, half-day workshop with over 40 tech tools totransition teachers into 21st century technology.

Manor ISDalso opened its doors to students from the surrounding Round Rock and EanesISDs to be part of a “Tech Crew.” According to the digital flyer, PlaydateAustin was for “those who just want to explore – or play with – apps, websites, programs or tools thatthey’ve always wanted to dig into more deeply, but never had the time orsupport to do so… with a spin.”

That spinwas a flipped classroom where teachers were the students and the students ledinstruction on the how-tos of digital literacy. They worked with as many central Texasteachers that would show up on a Saturday. The endgame was to get hands-on exposure to the tech tools. It was also a strategy session with studentsas to how teachers could increase tech integration in their pedagogy.

Pedagogyis industry-speak for the art of teaching. The art of digital literacy at PlaydateAustin came to the classroom compliments of iTeach Manor, the high-tech team at Manor ISD.

Manor ISDis a hotbed of 21st century learning. Their ThinkForward Project Based Institute is housed within their STEM driven ManorNew Technology High School. The websitecalls it “a dynamic institute designed to train K-12 educators in bestpractices for Project Based Learning (PBL), Leadership and 21st Century SkillApplications.” 

Theprogram has received praise from Arne Duncan, US Department of Education chief andfrom President Obama who visited on May 9,2013. He said, “the folks down hereare doing something right and I think the rest of the country can learn fromwhat you are doing.”

PlaydateAustin was patterned after PLAYDATE, thenewest type of educator professional development. PLAYDATE is an acronym that stands for PeopleLearning and Asking Y: Digital Age Teacher Exploration. It was co-foundedby Jenny Magiera,Digital Learning Coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, anetwork of 29 neighborhood public schools in Chicago, IL. 

Magierais a White House Champion of Change as a Connected Educator and is a an AppleDistinguished Educator, Google Certified. PLAYDATES have been heldinternationally and in the United States since the 2013 Chicago launch event.

iTeachManor ISD team member Lacy Bartlett tweetedprogress from the event. Playdate Austin hopes to plans to hold morestudent-led teacher professional development opportunities on differentcampuses. 

Some ofthe apps they introduced to teachers were Doceri,Haiku Deck, Edmodo, and Minecraft EDU, the latter of whichtransforms the popular online game into a learning opportunity.

BreitbartTexas spoke to Angela Matthews, Chief Technology Officer at Manor ISD, who said,as a district, Manor ISD uses Edmodo “as a way for our teachers to managestudent projects.”

She alsosaid, “kids turn in their work this way.” Matthews emphasized that although she was nota curriculum specialist, she could state they were not using Edmodo for CommonCore alignment but “as a medium to provide information to teachers,students, and parents.”

Matthewsalso oversaw Playdate Austin. She saidthe workshop came about because a number of her iTeach team were PLAYDATEfans. Matthews emphasized that sincethey already did a lot of project-based learning (PBL) in Manor ISD, thestudent as teacher component made this event “a natural fit.”

PBL is atype of learning strategy. The National Education Association (NEA)touted it as a modelstudent-centered projects.”

The NEA article also claimed that that this model “makes learning relevantto students by establishing connections to life outside the classroom and byaddressing real world issues.”  Project-based learning is often integratedinto the Common Core.

According to Matthews, the district also uses iTunes U on whichthey subscribe to “Digital Citizenship.” This was one of the socialmedia tools that Breitbart Texas recently examined in relationship to Common Core content that hasseeped into Texas classrooms through the information superhighway.

Matthewscommented that Common Sense Media was not the only resource Manor ISDused. She stated that Manor ISD followsthe Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) standards, adding that

Common Sense Media is fundedthrough a laundry list of philanthropicgrants that includes Common Core funders the Bill and Melinda GatesFoundation and the Broad Foundation.

Matthewsalso told Breitbart Texas that regardless of what social media products or appsthat Manor ISD uses, this is about “productivity and creativity,”not about TEKS or Common Core. She said they are “exposing teachers to different tools to betterteach in their classes.”

Regardless,Matthews assured Breitbart Texas that no Common Core content is coming into ManorISD. Ironically, Manor ISD houses resourcesthat provide students with a glut of Common Core content through OpenEducational Resources (OERs) and therecommended resource “Common Core:A Call for Innovation” on theirwebsite. Oddly, the page linked to a pressrelease from the U.S. Department of Laborabout career pathways.

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