Blinking LED name tags and green screens: teachers learn to use technology to teach their students

A teacher shows a name tag with lit LED lights

Veronica West was fiddling with a small piece of cardboard that had wires, a piece of electronic circuitry, diodes, and a button cell battery on it, trying to get all the pieces to function as a switch that would turn on LED lights on a hand-made name tag with “Veronica” written on the front of it.

West, who is a teacher with the Northshore School District’s new Family Partnerships program, got the entire project to work, but it took her a few minutes to figure it out. 

West was one of the many teachers who worked in the “Maker Space,” part of the District’s Summer Institute, a professional development series of classes and hands-on workshops for instructors that was held at Inglemoor High School. 

Josh Emond, instructional technology coordinator at Northshore, said the “Maker Space,” where West built her LED name tag, is a place where teachers can experiment with technology using a wide variety of different materials. 

Emond said the workshop demonstrated to teachers how they could use the many items available to teach technology to students. Teachers who took advantage of the workshop learned how to make items out of duct tape, circuitry, wires, LED lights, paper, and other similar items. 

“It’s a place to come in and make stuff and learn about technology,” Emond said.

West said she likes technology and teaching STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) to her K-5 students. One of her favorite things to do is using different materials when working with circuits, even if it takes a while.

“Working with these materials is frustrating, but I learn from it,” she said with a wide grin.

A woman standing in front of a green screen and an iPad camera displays the Eiffel Tower

Emond also set up a green screen, which is commonly used in broadcast news to create different backgrounds for people who are on camera, and showed West how to use it. 

West picked a photo of the Eiffel Tower as her backdrop. Emond then took a photo of her in front of the green screen, which made her look like she was near the famous tower in Paris. 

“Kids love to learn about green screens,” he said. “They can learn about broadcast news, and how weather reporters use them in newscasts.”

Two women talking and holding tech items.

Kirstin Briefs, a fourth-grade teacher at Lockwood Elementary, said she experimented with using technology, and iPads in particular, in the classroom. 

“Experiencing the learning opportunities with every possible grade level in the District during the summer institute has been mind-blowingly fun,” Briefs said.

But the learning wasn’t limited to classroom activities. Clark Combs, a teacher who is on special assignment with Northshore’s Safety and Security Department, said more than 40 staff members participated in a three-hour long training session on search and rescue operations.