New Underwood teacher honored for tech innovation in the classroom
New Underwood resident and teacher Jacqueline Myers will be honored at the Technology and Innovation in Education (TIE) Conference in Sioux Falls as the recipient of the prestigious kindergarten through 12 educator award. This award is given to a teacher from South Dakota who “leads outstanding technology innovations primarily in the classroom with student learners,” according to the TIE award nomination document.
Kevin Strand, the network administrator at the New Underwood school, recognized Myers as the perfect fit for the award and took the initiative to nominate her. Myers has been in the New Underwood School for eight years, four as the Response to Intervention (RTI) coordinator in the elementary, a position that specializes in reading and comprehension interventions for struggling and at-risk readers, and four years, most recently as an English language arts teacher. In that capacity, Myers has proven capable at bringing new tech tools into the classroom to enhance the students’ learning experience.
“It has been a lot of fun to work with [Jacque], and she is constantly surprising me with how many technology skills she fits into her English classes,” Strand said.
New Underwood is a one-to-one school, which means that each of the students in grades seven to 12 are entrusted with a Chromebook, a small personal computer, to use during the school year. Chromebooks are not known for their versatility or for being user-friendly, so Strand said he was surprised when he saw “properly formatted research papers being developed on more than one word processor, saved in multiple formats and turned in through multiple storage and communication options.”
According to Strand, Myers took the challenge of the Chromebooks and turned it into a learning experience for both herself and the students, teaching the students not only how to use the technology to which they had access, but also how to utilize new tools to maximize the potential of the technology.
“Before I met Jacque, I thought you had to be on a Mac or Windows to do any video editing. Then I found myself in the English room watching kids pull video off a cell phone, edit it and upload to YouTube on a Chromebook. It was not easy the first time and things did not always work, but Jacque had a Plan B and a Plan C,” Strand said.
Myers acknowledged that having a Plan B and C is essential, since “sometimes things just go off the rails” and technology does not behave in an expected manner. It is important for Myers that the technology exist in the classroom as a vehicle to aid learning, and not as the sole learning objective. Though she is a self-avowed avid technology user, “the learning always drives the use of technology in my classroom and not the other way around,” Myers said.
From the outside looking in, Strand sees Myers offering students the chance to learn on several different levels. According to Strand, Myers does not only teach English and technology skills to her students. “Jacque [uses] the tools to teach them about teamwork, social media and video formats,” Strand said.
“It is doubtful that students will be working on Chromebooks in college or on the job, but Jacque’s students are prepared because they have had to create a document in Google Docs and save it for Word or Adobe. Students have turned in assignments through email, classroom management programs and shared them to the cloud. They understand the reasons for choosing each location,” said Strand.
Myers is well versed in teaching others to master the use of technology. She has herself been a presenter at the TIE conference in past years, where she taught other educators about tools they could use in their own classrooms. While she has attended similar training sessions to learn new to use new tech tools, she readily admits that the best way for her to learn to use a new technology is by sitting down and playing with it herself. “Of course, this requires time,” Myers said.
As she works to enhance the learning experience of her students, Myers also balances her professional life with her family. She and her husband, Marc, will celebrate their 16th anniversary in May. The two have two sons, Park and Jeremy, who are in the eighth and ninth grades at NUHS.
Myers took a somewhat nontraditional route in her journey to become an educator. She graduated from South Dakota State University with a bachelor of arts degree in English, as well as with minors in history and American Indian studies. After her time as the RTI coordinator, Myers completed coursework through Black Hills State University to earn her teaching certificate, then enrolled at BHSU again to pursue a master of education in reading degree.
Myers brings her love of learning into the classroom as she seeks to find the best tools available to teach her students their content matter. Though she experiences frustration and setback when technology that worked well for her does not work in the classroom, she has built a support system to ensure that no class time is wasted as the students learn to navigate new tools.
“Kevin Strand is the tech guy and has been an excellent support and resource. When I need help with technology, he figures out the answer or finds the place where I can get the answer. Having someone in the building to call when I am trying something new makes all the difference. I can experiment with a new idea knowing I have support available if I need it so the students and I will not stall out and waste our time,” Myers said.
One of the times when Myers saw technology, and teamwork, most effectively used was during the 2014-15 school year in her English I class. During a nonfiction instructional unit, students were to create documentaries detailing someone in their lives who had been impacted by social and cultural changes. Though the technology for the documentaries had worked well for Myers when she used it alone, it proved problematic when the entire class tried to use it. Strand, Myers and the students were able to collaborate and eventually use the technology to produce the documentaries.
“The learning experience of researching their family member was so valuable, but being able to produce a video to share that investigation in an authentic, durable way was fantastic. Students put so much work into research, and many times they do a presentation to their class, and it is gone. No one else gets to appreciate their hard work. With the documentary, students' work is available to show their families and also as a part of their academic portfolio,” Myers said.
From the perspective of someone at home in the IT world, Strand sees experiences like this as the piece that will set New Underwood students above students who do not have teachers like Myers who work to equip them for an increasingly tech-savvy environment.
“Our students are not working on high-end laptops with the default office productivity suite. However, I no longer see that as a disadvantage because Jacque is turning that into a learning opportunity just like she does with everything else. If Chromebooks, Android tablets, phones and the iPad keep working their way into schools and businesses our students are going to be ready to adapt to whatever tools they are asked to use. If they get into a school or work environment with Windows, Android or Mac they will be prepared because they know how to adapt,” said Strand.