Ed Tech Can Change More than Just Your Teaching
Renee Peoples, an ISTE member since
2005, says she “can’t get enough,
learn enough, or hear enough” when
it comes to NECC.
Four years ago, her small elementary
school in the Appalachian Mountains of
North Carolina offered to send some teachers to NECC in Philadelphia as part of
a one-to-one laptop grant that included
professional development. When Peoples
was offered a slot, she said she only had one
question: “When do we leave?”
She had been excited about using technol-
ogy in her classroom for a long time. In fact,
after she repeatedly applied unsuccessfully to get a grant
to buy a projector for her classroom, the technology coordinator at her school was so impressed with her diligence
that he bought one for her with some leftover funding.
“I wanted to learn more ways to use technology to improve
instruction,” she says. “Using technology changed not just my
classroom teaching, but my life. I began to use as much technology as I could beg, borrow, or write a grant to get.”
Peoples teaches fourth grade and coaches K– 5 math for
Swain County Schools in North Carolina. She was voted
Western Region Teacher of the Year for 2008–2009, and
she believes that her use of technology in the classroom
was the key to winning.
“With this great honor came a gift of $5,000,” she says.
She thought of two ways to use the money: to buy a laptop
or to spend it on an educational opportunity to improve
“I was very interested in a curriculum degree, especially
in math,” she says. “However, my heart and life revolved
As she was contemplating the best use of the money,
Peoples learned about an 18-credit graduate certificate
program designed to prepare administrators to lead using
technology. The certificate, a partnership
between ISTE and Johns Hopkins University, was offered almost entirely
online—except for the two face-to-face residencies at NECC. She signed
Peoples’ favorite moments working with
technology are those that include her students. She enjoys their responses to whatever she is doing, be it typing on the computer
or video conferencing.
“My class has been able to participate in
three experiences of video conferencing this
year,” she says. “There have been so many
opportunities for us to learn about other
people in other places.
“Recently, a student in a class in California asked, ‘What is a snow day?’ A student
answered, ‘A day when you don’t have to go
to school to play in the snow, if there is any.’
This reminded me that often it is the little things we learn
Renee considers Web 2.0, and now Web 3.0, the most
influential tech tools. “With the current budget situation,
schools are going to have to use their money very wisely
and take advantage of free tools,” she says. “Only months
ago we argued [In L&L’s Point/Counterpoint] whether free
tools are worth the cost. Today we are living in a whole
new world where we better make them worth it, because
they are all we can afford.”
With the ever growing opportunities to collaborate,
share, and create using online tools, Peoples sees students
becoming lifelong learners.
Online learning will become more available, she predicts.
“Both teachers and students are receiving more education
without ever meeting face to face, and that is working out
fine,” she says. “Teachers can receive their professional
development just as well on Moodle or a wiki as they can
in person, and no one has to buy gas! Students learn, research, report, and produce products for assessment just
fine without ever getting on a school bus.”
—Kaya Hardin is an ISTE intern. She graduates from the University of
Oregon in June.