Technology at the State Capitol

State Senator Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), Oliver Hammond, Breena Mejeur, Paityn Koeman (in back), Ryan Gruber.

By Sue Moore

Fifth grade students from Sunset Lake Elementary School were among the few in the state selected to bring cutting edge and innovative technology demonstrations from their classroom to show lawmakers in Lansing.

They did this as part of the 19th annual Student Technology Showcase in the state Capitol in December. Students from 35 classrooms across the state showcased the brightest and best technology projects that they are using, according to Mark Smith, executive director of the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) which organized the showcase. Underwritten by AT&T, it featured demonstrations from students representing more than 35 different schools around the state.

Fifth grade teacher Dawn Phelps is the tech integration leader at Sunset Lake school. This is the second appearance her students have made to exhibit their classroom technology. She applied to the technology Showcase so her students’ project could be considered.

Using Flipgrid software, the students created a video tape using a camera on a Chromebook computer that other students in the class could view and give feedback, Phelps said. This allows a shy student to sit at a desk and take notes on other people’s speeches.

“They learn how to use technology and the internet safely without leaving a digital footprint that the public might see on social media forever. It’s set up a bit like snapchat. They love the technology as their work does not get on any public sites. It stays private so only the ones who see it are those who set it up. They showed state Senator Sean McCann how it all worked, even on their cell phones. He was fabulous with the kids and engaged them in great conversation,” Phelps said.

Only four of her students could attend the Showcase along with Terri Negri, the lead technology person at Sunset school. Although the whole class uses this technology, Phelps had to choose those who wanted to learn more about Flipgrid and be willing to present it to others.

“It allows my students to use their speaking and listening skills in a real-world setting. It was no cost to the kids. They got to tour the Capitol and take turns walking around to see other students’ projects,” Phelps said. “I also think that having a small group work together to plan, create and present technology outside of the classroom enhances their understanding of the technology we are using. Once this ‘expert’ group gets it down, they are incredible at helping other students, even in other grades, learn more about specific technology tools too.”

Students from all over the state displayed a wide variety of technology projects that blended science, mathematics, social studies and language arts with the latest digital tools. Their work featured app development, artificial intelligence demonstrations, coding, robotics, web design, and many other technology demonstrations.

MACUL is an organization dedicated to bringing educators from all levels together to share their knowledge and concerns regarding educational uses of computers and technology.

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