County office of ed. offers tech training

New training program designed for teachers, parents

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San Benito High School teacher Tom Sullivan is one of several instructors that has to teach through distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (contributed)

It comes as no surprise nowadays that some children can be a bit more tech savvy than adults, especially when it comes to operating smartphones and tablets.  

However, those same youngsters and adults also tend to run into some trouble whenever it comes to educational technology.

The San Benito County Office of Education is hoping to solve that problem with “Closing the Distance with Technology,” which is a technology training program that prepares teachers, administrators, parents and learning partners to better support student learning in class or at home. 

San Benito County Office of Education Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Logue said as they continue to go through the process of distance learning, most of the school districts are using education technology, or EdTech, but they are still having trouble working out the kinks. 

“A lot of people don’t know the best strategies for it or they may be looking at how to use it a little bit more efficiently,” she said. “Parents don’t always understand the programs and even administrators who haven’t been in the classroom for a few years.”

The County Office of Education launched the first training session for teachers on Oct. 29 and they will occur twice a month on Thursdays from 3:30-4:30pm. There are two sessions available: Basic EdTech and Beyond EdTech Basics.

The Basic EdTech is designed to teach pedagogy and Google skills, which includes Certified Educator Level 1. Beyond EdTech Basics is for teachers with more experience looking to advance to the Google Certified Educator 2 Level.

The administrators got their first training session on Nov. 4, and they will continue to train once a month on Wednesdays from 3:30-4:30pm. They’ll be focusing on the same thing as the teachers, but with more emphasis on supporting EdTech in the classroom.  

The first session for parents was on Nov. 9 and those sessions will continue once a month on Mondays from 5-6pm. They’ll be learning the basic technology including how to navigate and support student learning. Parents can sign up for the next session on the office of education’s website. 

There are currently nine schools throughout the county that have reopened for in-person instruction but a majority of students are still learning from home. 

County Office of Education officials spoke with various school districts. They found out that a concern with parents was they didn’t understand the programs and they weren’t able to log onto Google Classroom. 

“With teachers, it’s like being a first-year teacher all over again,” Logue said. “You’re suddenly bombarded with all these programs and you’re not sure exactly how to use them.” 

The office of education sent out surveys to all of the different groups, including parents. The modules were designed based upon the feedback from parents, teachers and administrators.

Logue pointed out that some parents at times don’t feel comfortable asking specific questions, which is another reason the program was designed to help parents become part of the learning community.

“They’re always considered a partner in education, but we’re hoping that this will also help bridge that communication and we really want to bring everyone together,” Logue said. “So we’re all supporting students in their learning.” 

The bottom line was they had to figure out what people needed through assessments and then create a countywide program that would address those needs.

Jivan Dhaliwal, director of curriculum, instruction, equity and access at the county office of education, mentioned that creating the program was of the utmost importance because parents have been reaching out for help. 

They’ve called several times to County Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto to ask for assistance, according to Dhaliwal.

“There’s been a real need, countywide, to figure out what teachers needed to create more effective learning experiences and enhance what they already knew,” said Dhaliwal.

Dhaliwal took note that teachers wanted to learn ways to engage students and create environments similar to when they’re put in groups inside the classroom. The teachers wanted to use technology to enhance that particular interaction and engagement, which Dhaliwal thinks can happen during remote learning.

“The ultimate goal for the entire program is keeping students at the heart, keeping students in mind and making sure that they’re learning as engaging as possible,” she said.

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