Thanks to a generous grant from the Thatcher Faculty and Staff Development Fund, I was able to attend the Georgia Educational Technology Conference last year. As a first-year Darlington faculty member and first-year librarian, I was eager to gather as much information as I could from school library media veterans. Many of the ideas I incorporated into Darlington’s Upper School Library throughout the year were from seeds planted at GAETC. I knew that I wanted to attend again in 2023 — and this time, I had the opportunity to write the grant myself and explain just how valuable my experience at the conference had been.
A Darlington standard states that an excellent teacher "remains actively engaged in one’s academic discipline in order to keep abreast of the most recent developments, to maintain true enthusiasm for one’s field, and to continue to grow in the discipline through hands-on experience."
Likewise, the Georgia Educational Technology Conference says that it “provides the latest updates in educational technology and demonstrates how innovative educators can enhance their classroom learning experience through hands-on experience.”
An excellent teacher commits to continual growth and improvement, and the GAETC gives attendees a chance to learn about how ever-changing technology can enhance a student’s learning experience.
I received the Thatcher Grant for four attendees and wanted to ensure that Darlington had representatives who spanned various departments and grade levels. The group consisted of Mallory Collier, Upper School English teacher; Leah Lynn, technology integration coordinator; Kaleigh Tutorow, Pre-K to 8 learning specialist; and me, Jordan West, Upper School librarian.
Below, each attendee shared their greatest takeaways from the conference:
Mallory Collier, Upper School English Teacher
"At the Georgia Educational Technology Conference, I was able to gain extensive knowledge of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in educational settings. AI has been such a difficult topic for the past year because of the lack of knowledge and guidance on how it is useful in educational settings. Each session that I attended was intentional and focused on learning how to apply that technology here at Darlington. As we move forward in education, it is necessary to know how to navigate modern technology so that our students are well-versed in current modes of learning and we can continue to prepare them for college in the most effective way. GaETC provided me with the opportunity to bring this information back to Darlington to help us provide the tools our students need in order to be successful wherever they land."
Kaleigh Tutorow, Pre-K to 8 Learning Specialist
"I spent most of my sessions at GAETC looking for ways to improve student accommodations through technology. I found three new interventions that can be implemented for different levels of reading support in and out of the classroom. This conference helped to deepen my knowledge of programmed readers and internet-compatible accommodations for reading and writing as well as introduced me to the evolving world of AI and its impact on education. I appreciated the opportunity to go and now have more tools to help my students in the Teaching and Learning Center."
Leah Lynn, Technology Integration Specialist
"The conference provided invaluable insights into leveraging generative AI in the classroom, shedding light on diverse applications for both teachers and students. I found the sessions focusing on integrating coding across all grade levels and content areas particularly enlightening as they emphasized the significance of cultivating computational thinking skills in the early stages of learning. However, the true standout was the emphasis on purposeful education technology that seamlessly integrates into existing teaching practices. Armed with these transformative strategies, I am excited to redeliver and share this knowledge with the educators I work with, ensuring they can effortlessly incorporate these innovations into their classrooms. This experience has not only expanded my understanding of cutting-edge tools but also equipped me with the tools to empower teachers in leveraging technology effectively for enhanced student learning."
Jordan West, Upper School Librarian
"In the school library world, while the foundations of what we do remain unchanged, the methods in which we do it are in a constant state of evolution. I was excited to learn about the technological tools other librarians are using to promote their library programs and create a culture of reading at their schools. I also appreciated the chance to network with school librarians from across the state. In addition to promoting reading, school librarians work to develop students who are proficient seekers, gatherers, and users of information. The sessions I attended introduced me to innovations in technology that can enhance these skills as our students navigate the world of information at their fingertips. Instead of a hesitancy to approach newer technologies, I have an eagerness to embrace these tools that will serve our students now and beyond their time at Darlington."
The keynote speaker, George Couros, explained the purpose of attending a conference like this simply, stating: “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.”
We look forward to utilizing technology in transformational moments, lessons, and courses, and are grateful for the grant that gave us this opportunity.