NYC Teachers Sharpen Digital Tools for the Classroom

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It may be vacation season but hundreds of New York City teachers are spending their summer days brushing up on the latest technology tools for the classroom.

One recent morning dozens of teachers were introduced to PBS Learning Media, a teacher-focused website with videos and games about math, science and social studies.  

The educational director at the local public television station WNET, Sandy Goldberg, walked educators through free online resources, like Oh Noah!, a game that teaches Spanish vocabulary to elementary school students with the help of an English-speaking child going to visit his Spanish speaking abuela.

Mission U.S. is a more sophisticated role-playing game that puts students into a specific historical moment: players can be put into the shoes of a colonist during the Boston tea party, a runaway slave, a Native American losing lands to settlers, or a garment worker on the Lower East Side.

“I’m really a dinosaur when it comes to teaching because I started teaching in the 1980’s and back then technology was a Polaroid camera,” said Leni Cohen, a Kindergarten teacher at The Anderson School, a K-8 school for gifted and talented students in Manhattan.

And yet Cohen said she recognized the importance of incorporating different media into her classes. English Language Learners in her class, for example, may connect to a video differently than native English speakers.

“Media can work on so many levels if you allow it to,” she said.

Chris Allen, a special education teacher at P.S. 57 on Staten Island, said that he thought interactive media lessons could help his students access more complex material. He offered the example of a time-lapse video of a plant growing.

“The discussion that you could have following that, you might not get from students with special needs after reading,” he said. “But with that visual they're able to participate just as much as the kids who are better readers.”

 About 300 teachers are slated to attend the digital training sessions this summer.