Story and photos by Jo Mathis
AAPS District News Editor
Pattengill Elementary’s ‘Tech it Out’ on Dec. 7 will introduce parents to the exciting technology their children are using at school, and invite students to make some low-tech educational gadgets they can use at home.
Held from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the event allows guests to move throughout the school to hear teachers and students present on subjects ranging from Project Lead the Way and robots to all things Google, assistive technology, and Hour of Code.
Principal Melita Alston explained that the annual event began in 2014 to showcase high tech resources such as iPads, robots, PLTW, and Apple products, along with—at the request of special education teachers—low tech items students can make and use at school and home.
“It’s a great way to engage the community,” said Alston, of Tech it Out.
Fourth grade teacher Dawn Blair and her students will talk about their work with iMovie and Dash & Dot. She said students find that using technology makes learning fun, even as they’re preparing for the future.
“Parents should come to Tech it Out and understand and get involved and experience all the wonderful technology we use here at Pattengill,” said Blair. “We use a lot of technology with the different subjects we’re teaching. Even today, with word study we used coding, we’ve learned how to use iMovie, we had a field trip to the Apple Store at Briarwood to learn how to make iMovies and book trailers. We also have the Dash & Dot robot that we use with coding. So we’re always moving forward into the new century of learning.”
“This is a good opportunity for them to learn about not only the technology used at Pattengill, but the easy, free things they can be using at home to support their kids in reading and in math.”
Teacher Consultant Barbara Gildersleeve will talk about assistive technology (AT), which includes any item or software used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. That includes both high and low tech items.
Gildersleeve will guide students through the creation of two low-tech items: highlighter reading strips to help with reading comprehension, and pencil fidgets.
“These are easy, inexpensive ways to help their kids stay on task in the classroom,” she said. “The pencil fidgets help because sometimes kids need something to do with their hands while the teacher is talking and it helps them to focus,” she said. “The pencil fidgets online are pretty expensive, especially if the kid loses them. These you can make over and over again for pennies.”
Pattengill’s Tech it Out is just one of several schools throughout the district this month that are highlighting PLTW and hands-on STEAM education. AAPS is one of the few districts in the country to offer the PLTW program in grades K-12.
“In Ann Arbor Public Schools we are always looking for new and innovative ways to engage students in the world around them,” said Merri Lynn Colligan, who oversees the district’s instructional and information technology. “We find that opportunities to use design thinking in project-based challenges, learning to code, group work, and creation through 3D printing and robotics provide students with experiences to gain skills they need for the workforce.”
The district’s goal, she said, is to increase the foundational skills around critical thinking, communication, and perseverance through technological application.