Students from SJC Brooklyn, SJC Long Island and SJC Online pursuing a career in the field of education had the chance to hear from alumnae educators Monday, Feb. 28, during a virtual event titled SJC Student-Alumni Conversations: Using Technology in the Classroom.
Hosted by the Office of Alumni Engagement, SJC Brooklyn’s Child Study Club and SJC Long Island’s Educators Club, the event featured 2021 Esse Non Vidreri Award winners Joanna Bis ’16, M.A. ’18, and Jade Lawrence ’20.
“The value technology plays in the classroom is crucial in providing fun and engaging opportunities to learn,” said Asma Hosein, president of the Educators Club and a junior child study major with a concentration in psychology at SJC Long Island. “This event helped facilitate my knowledge of different resources that will enhance student performance. The information that was shared made me reflect on how to be innovative and creative in the classroom.”
The event was open to Child Study majors, students with concentrations in Adolescence Education, and to all graduate students enrolled in an education program. More than 130 students, faculty and staff attended the event.
“This event surpassed my expectations,” said Taylor Callahan, a junior child study major at SJC Brooklyn and president of the Child Study Club. “With Joanna and Jade’s presentation, future educators were provided with numerous platforms that are free, effective and fun for students to interact with.
“Seeing websites and technology that could be used with students from pre-k through middle school gave participants a wide range of options for the differing education career choices, myself included,” she continued.
Enhancing Education with Technology
Alumnae speakers Bis and Lawrence discussed the benefits and different uses of technology in the classroom and in a virtual environment. They also shared helpful tools to try and use them for teaching. An interactive Q&A will follow the conversation.
Lawrence, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Child Study at SJC Long Island amid the pandemic and who now works as a kindergarten teacher in the West Islip school district, discussed five technology resources with attendees: Nearpod, Seesaw, Smart Exchange, Classroom Screen and Baamboozle.
“Virtual learning saves you when you don’t really know what to do or how to get your kids engaged,” Lawrence said. “I have to grab the attention of 4 and 5 year olds. That’s a really hard thing to do! Technology sometimes makes it a lot easier than just giving them a worksheet or giving them a craft to do.”
Bis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Child Study and a master’s in Childhood Special Education at SJC Brooklyn, teaches 4th grade at P.S. 253 in Brooklyn. Her presentation focused on combining the use of technology in the classroom with the classic paper-and-pencil approach of in-person learning.
“Technology is one of my passions in teaching, especially the past two years,” Bis said. “We’ve been swimming in technology and using it in different ways. I’ve been using technology as a way to get everyone engaged in their learning.”
Both presenters acknowledged a disadvantage to technology: it doesn’t always work — as temporarily experienced in the presentation itself.
“Technology is never 100 percent,” Bis, who’s audio started lagging, said with a laugh. “That’s another lesson about teaching: always take everything with a laugh. The kids know you’re not doing it on purpose, and if they see you laugh, it’s very human, so it’s good for them.”
Advice to New Teachers
As part of a Q&A portion of the event, an attendee asked the speakers what advice they’d give to first-year teachers.
“Breathe,” Bis said. “Take a breath, because it’s a lot. Take it one day at a time. You won’t be perfect your first year; it’s okay, everyone knows. Just be gracious upon yourself because we’re probably our own hardest critics.”
Lawrence, who’s a first-year teacher herself, attested to what Bis said.
“Just don’t doubt yourself, because you can do these things,” she said. “You’re here. You’re at this seminar, you’re at this workshop, you’re at St. Joseph’s College. You’re doing the things that are going to make you the best teacher you can possibly be. And it’s all worth it in the end.”
The presenters also shared tips about what resources they use when making lesson plans, how they motivate their students to learn and how to familiarize parents with new technology when they need to set it up for their children.