Tech conference turns OHS teachers into students

Shweta Karikehalli | The Daily StarOneonta High School students, from left, Molly Forbes, Matt Frederick, Arianna Anderson and Aidan Mackey try out three-dimensional pens at a conference at Oneonta High School on Friday. 

Local teachers swapped their roles to become students at Oneonta's educational technology and best practices conference at Oneonta High School on Friday.

Registrants milled about the high school's hallways checking out the multitude of different sessions, including how to support students recovering from concussions, how to use Google sites to create a literary magazine, supporting English language learners in the classroom, coding for educators and podcasting with students, among other topics.

Delaware-Chenango-Madison-Otsego BOCES Teacher Jennifer Benson spoke about how educators can best support students who are learning English as a second language.

Benson, who has taught in Qatar and Kuwait, said it's important to account for such factors as the student's home culture and language, whether they're extroverted or introverted and socioeconomic factors. Providing the student with a “buddy” who can help students understand classroom norms in the United States if they're new to the country is also helpful, she said.

Maria Cristina Montoya, associate professor in the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department at SUNY Oneonta, pointed out that students learning English as a second language have varying educational needs.

For example, some are students born in the United States that primarily or only speak their native language at home, rather than students that are new to the United States. Subjecting all to the same educational standards may cause insecurity, Montoya said.

Kevin Colella, a senior at SUNY Oneonta studying adolescent education and Spanish, said that although the session was about helping students learn English, it was helpful to him as someone helping English-speaking students learn Spanish.

"You're seeing the foundations of how to start someone off who doesn't know a language at all to learn a new one," Colella said. "The progression that they use to teaching ELLs, you would also be able to use it to teach students Spanish."

Cooperstown Elementary School Library Media Specialist Emily Gibson talked about creating podcasts with students as part of the curriculum. She said podcasts have several advantages, including being less intimidating than public speaking, igniting curiosity, providing the ability to express new ideas and sharing information with others.

"How often do your students get to share their stories and their work and their projects with the entire world, and in a secure way?" Gibson said. "With podcasting, yes, they're practicing public speaking, but it's also broadcast to the world, so that's the most authentic audience you can give them."

The school library was transformed into a media and digital tools playground. Faculty and Oneonta Senior High School students volunteering at EdTech checked out three-dimensional pens, stop-motion animation, three-dimensional printing and other hands-on activities. 

All of those tools and resources are available for checkout to any Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES Media Library subscribers, and free trials are available for non-subscribers.

According to Oneonta City School District Director of IT Services Bonnie Nobiling, 600 people registered for the event. They were from OCSD, Cooperstown Central School District, Milford Central School District, South Kortright Central School District, Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES and many other educators from the Southern Tier region, according to a media release from OCSD.

The educational technology and best practices conference, or EdTech, is a collaboration with New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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