A pair of Killeen Independent School District teachers work on a video game program during a workshop at the school district's technology conference last week at the KISD Career Center.

What started as a few summer workshops to help teachers with technology morphed this year into something bigger.

It was the fourth year of Killeen Independent School Distict’s technology professional development and the first year for the KISD Technology Conference, rebranded and stretched out across the district’s newest secondary campus.

Anna Adam and Helen Mowers, digital learning specialists in Killeen ISD, and Cindy Oppermann, director of information systems, directed the professional conference and offered 105 sessions over four days aimed at using technology in the classroom.

“We wanted to provide a concentrated week of professional learning to help educators use technology that is available online or that KISD has purchased,” Mowers said. “We know many teachers don’t realize what is available and how to use it.”

More than 430 Killeen ISD staff, including teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and even school board members JoAnn Purser and Marvin Rainwater attended sessions at the KISD Career Center.

Many adults who tour the Career Center look around and wish out loud that these programs were available when they were in school.

The sessions offered the first week of August allowed teachers and other school staff to dive into video game design, digital photography, using a Mac more effectively and properly taking advantage of social media.

“We hope teachers will be able to use technology to make content engaging,” Mowers said. “We hope they leave here inspired and empowered to do it.”

One group of teachers learned basic gaming programs. Another group used video cameras to create films with iMovie.

Along the way, the teachers got an eye-full of the modern structure on Stagecoach Road that houses Killeen ISD’s welding, agriculture, audio/video, photography, CISCO Systems and other career-focused programs.

Angela Starnes-Laninga, an English teacher at Live Oak Ridge Middle School said she was impressed with the variety of technology options available to educators and with presenters’ flexibility.

“They mirror the differentiated instruction that we use,” she said, noting that presenters met the needs of a variety of skill levels in the workshops. “I’m excited to take the information back and to share it.”

The conference brought in a keynote speaker and professionals from Promethean, but the vast majority of the teaching came from Killeen ISD teachers and campus technology specialists.

Sherri O’Quinn, a second-grade teacher at Fowler Elementary School, said she appreciated the chance to learn useful technology skills without traveling out of town.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s comparable to what I’ve been to in Austin, but it’s local.”

Entering her 35th year of teaching, O’Quinn, a grandmother, said teachers must continue to learn about technology to engage today’s students.

“Some of them know more than we do,” she said.

“You have to be able to keep them engaged. They do things differently.”

Mowers and Adam said they hoped the conference would translate into more technology integrated into learning as school starts later this month.

“Technology can be intimidating,” Adam said, “but it doesn’t have to be and you don’t have to be an expert. You have help and support in KISD.”

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