‘Teach camp’ helps SD educators utilize tech in classrooms

Teachers across South Dakota tuned into a virtual training last week to learn new ways to integrate technology in the classroom.

More than 400 teachers from nearly 130 different South Dakota K-12 schools registered to participate in Dakota State University’s ninth annual “Teach Camp.” The virtual event, held Friday, updated teachers on new technologies for classroom settings and other modern teaching strategies.

David De Jong, dean of the College of Education and Human Performance at Dakota State University, said despite challenges, it is a great time to be a teacher.

“We know more now today about what works and what doesn’t work in education,” De Jong contended. “When we know how to figure that out, like take what works and bring that to our classrooms, we can learn with each other and from each other, like we’re going to be doing today.”

De Jong used the artificial intelligence program ChatGPT during his opening remarks to show it is approachable. But researchers are still learning about the benefits and drawbacks of extensive tech use in classrooms, a trend exaggerated by COVID, which some experts say has outpaced the ability of policymakers to analyze them.

Fewer than half of teachers said technology makes engaging students easier, according to a 2023 report, while 84% of students agree technology helps them focus on lessons.

Jennifer Nash, associate professor of education at Dakota State, walked teachers through virtual field trips and a story-retelling exercise during a presentation on active learning with technology, in which students use emojis to summarize an idea.

“Through those processes, they’re moving from that passive learning to active learning,” Nash explained. “They’re starting to make sense of whatever method or mode that you have given them to read about, listen, watch.”

Other Teach Camp sessions included creating safe spaces: a trauma-informed approach to classroom management, creativity in the classroom and understanding dyslexia.