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Bringing tech to the classroom

As Independent School District 192's technology integration specialist it's Jen Legatt's job to help teachers make more effective use of technology in their classrooms.

Jen Legatt got into teaching because she liked working with kids. But over the past year she's discovered working with adults can be just as rewarding.

As Independent School District 192's technology integration specialist it's Legatt's job to help teachers make more effective use of technology in their classrooms. In some cases that means helping set up web sites where teachers can share resources and assignments. In others it means making sure teachers are getting all they can out of new technology like smart boards, projectors and video cameras.

"It's going to be even bigger in the next five years and after that I can't even imagine," Legatt said.

Legatt, who spent her the last three school years teaching English, communication and drama at Farmington Middle School West, has a master of technology integration from Minnesota State-Mankato.

How did you get to be TIS?

Technology is my passion. I was showing my mother how to use a computer when I was 1. We've got pictures.

What is it about technology that you like?

It's exciting. It connects kids to the real world, and the business world that we are going into kids need to use computers. They need to have these skills. They need to make informed decisions about social media. Informed decisions about how technology affects the world.

Give me an example.

When I taught eighth grade English I had a smart board in my room. Eighth graders hate daily oral language, where they have to go up and correct sentences. But it's an important skill to be able to recognize where capitalization is needed and so on. Give them a smart board and they're clamoring to go up. And it's amazing.

Do you think it's just the shiny part of technology?

It's more than that. It's hands on. It's more for tactile learners. Technology gives them a chance to get moving and get going.

What do you do on a day to day basis?

It really depends, and my job description has evolved as the year has gone on. We have a new student system this year and I've ended up helping teachers a lot with that.

I might jump into a classroom and work with the gifted and talented kids on a Web page or digital storytelling.

Digital storytelling?

It's one of my pet projects. It could do a lot of things where you take pictures and add voices over that. I've got a project next year where they do dissections in middle schools and we're going to take pictures and have kids talk about it.

How does something like that help with learning?

With the dissections, if you've got a kid who opts out there's an opportunity of a project they could do but not have to get physically involved.

At North Trail we have some teachers who, through a grant, have Flip cameras. They're little mini digital cameras and they're recording (students) talking about elements of design for art and you see these kids and they're talking about form. They're talking about color. They're talking about balance. She had a really hard time getting them to write one paragraph of the same thing but you give them the camera and they're excited. They're talking about their art. They're proud of it and you can tell they understand.

What have you seen that has you most excited?

I really am enjoying seeing the clickers. The response system some teachers have. I had a trial in my room for two months my last year of teaching and the kids loved it and I was able to know immediately whether the kids got it. They were engaged. The quiet kid couldn't disappear. There are kids who get lost in the shadows sometimes and that's a way to keep track of them. It's also engaging. It's immediate. The kids can see right away 50 percent of kids say A 50 percent say B: let's talk about why the answer is B.

Have new technologies changed the teacher's job, or are they just tools?

It's tools like any other tool, hopefully. It shouldn't be toys. It should be integrated. It should be part of what you do. It shouldn't be bells and whistles when you pull out the clickers. Pulling out the clicker is just the same as pulling out your calculator.

Are you enjoying the job?

It's a blast. I love this job. This is my dream job.