School's in for summer — at least that's the case for La Cañada Unified instructors who want to build their tech chops before school starts back up on Aug. 12.
Throughout summer break, the district's IT department is offering a series of "Tech Thursday" training sessions, a sort of boot camp for teachers who want to learn more about technological changes that will soon be making their way into La Cañada classrooms.
"I'm very excited by their willingness to give up some summer vacation to come in for these sessions," said Jamie Lewsadder, the district's technology director and class organizer, who put weekly enrollment at about 10 teachers.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, 15 educators from different campuses and grade levels convened to learn about Google Apps for Education, a platform of Web-based services — Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive and Google Forms — that lets teachers and students process, store and edit work in shared spaces accessible online.
Teachers can use the programs to create and organize classroom assignments, and students can use them to submit or store their work and receive immediate feedback as they progress, explained Lindsay Staley, a teacher on special assignment who led the class.
"You don't need flash drives, you don't need kids to email themselves work and you don't need excuses," Staley explained during a demonstration. "They can go online anywhere and do their work."
Among those who came to learn more about Google Apps for Education was Kim Slattery, a third-grade teacher at La Cañada Elementary School. Thanks to a donation from the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, each elementary school just received 80 new Chromebook computers, and she wanted to know how to put them to best use in the classroom.
"I just kind of wanted to get my feet wet and see how it all works," Slattery said. "It's a little overwhelming. (But) the kids are all very excited when they get to use any technology."
During the class, Staley assured teachers that protecting and monitoring students' online activities will be as easy as the click of the button, thanks to a "dashboard" function to which only the teachers will have access.
"You can look at what every single kid is doing. You can also freeze their screens," she said.
Seventh-grade math teacher Morgan Savage said he was looking forward to applying what he learned in his own classes this fall. Technology would be a big help during their unit on the stock market, he added.
"They'll be able to use [computers] in the classroom to check the stocks," he said. "It's going to make it more streamlined, and probably more interesting for them."
Judi Healey, who teaches sixth-grade English at Palm Crest Elementary School, said she can't wait to see how students' work will improve when she is able to provide more direct and immediate feedback online.
"What Lindsay was talking about is powerful," she said after class. "This takes it to another level."