Mary Casserly-Smith and Paul Connell, both teachers in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191, have been named TIES 2017 Exceptional Teachers and will be honored during the TIES Education Technology Conference in December.
They are among teachers selected for modeling best practices in using technology to engage students in learning. School districts participating in the award program are members of TIES, an education technology consortium of 48 Minnesota school districts.
“Mary and Paul have embedded technology in their classrooms to differentiate instruction, expand learning and prepare students to be future ready,” said Superintendent Cindy Amoroso, who nominated the teachers for the award. “They're also leaders in the use of technology in our school district and we thank them for their contributions and congratulate them on this recognition.”
When it comes to her work, Mary Casserly-Smith is right where she wants to be. As the Rahn Elementary digital learning specialist, her role combines teaching students using International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards and coaching fellow teachers on how to strategically integrate technology into their curriculum.
“Mary is not only talented and knowledgeable when working with students, but is a huge to support to our staff as they work to integrate technology,” said Principal Barbara Borer. “Having a digital learning specialist teaching vital technology skills to students and staff members has made integrating technology more efficient and productive.”
Though Casserly-Smith notes there are challenges, including keeping up with technology changes and ensuring equitable access to tech tools, she says this work is essential for schools to prepare students for their futures. All students have the opportunity to learn coding, digital literacy, and how to use learning technologies.
“We will never know another time when computers are not a part of our life,” said Casserly-Smith, who holds certificates in educational technology and cognitive coaching, and is earning a second licensure in media literacy, “and if we don’t prepare our students for a digital world, we would be failing them and society as a whole.”
Paul Connell says that providing Chromebooks to all students has had an exciting impact on teaching and learning at Burnsville High School.
The language arts/creative writing teacher had started his master’s degree in Learning Design and Technology when the 1:1 began last year and was well-positioned to make the most of it.
"Paul is a teacher leader in using our Schoology online learning system to create blended learning for students with a mix of online and classroom learning," said Principal Dave Helke. "I appreciate that Paul is always willing to share his knowledge with colleagues."
Devices facilitate differentiated learning, says Connell. When studying a novel, for example, he can provide it in several formats: pdf digital, abridged, audio and play scripts so students can access the version that suits their learning style. Connell finds that students who have typically been quiet in classroom discussions are active contributors to online discussions.
Devices also save lots of time. No longer does Connell have to search for computer labs, spend time at the copy machine, or collect and hand out papers. This provides more time to develop learning activities and spend more time with individual students. He’s also able to provide feedback to students so much faster than before. Most importantly, he knows that ALL of his students have access to devices, resources and tools, which he couldn’t count on before.