EDvolutionaries: Southeast Teacher Ed. Grads Wired for Digital Classrooms

aarfall2016_mohnsenzurekWhen aspiring teachers Madison Mohnsen and Kylie Zurek enter the classroom as first-year teachers next year, chances are their students could have the edge when it comes to technology.

But Mohnsen and Zurek are among Southeast Missouri State University’s EDvolutionaries who intend to defy that trend. They are graduating tech savvy to teach students who have traded notebooks and pencils for tablets chock full of endless apps and connections to websites, social media and tech tools galore.

Mohnsen of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Zurek of Manhattan, Illinois, both of whom are completing student teaching assignments this fall at South Elementary in Jackson, Missouri, will receive Bachelors of Science in Education, early childhood education option, when they graduate from Southeast Dec. 17. As they fast forward to the job market awaiting them in 2017, the two say they are grateful for having completed Southeast’s EDvolution, which has equipped them to use emerging technologies with children who can’t get enough of the digital world.

“Technology has been changing the way students learn and grow, and it is our job as educators to stay up to date with the latest technology to teach our students,” Mohnsen said.

That’s why she and Zurek last month presented, “EDvolution: How Technology is Changing the Classroom and Overall Education in a Positive Manner,” at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California.

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Madison Mohnsen, left, and Kylie Zurek showcased Southeast’s EDvolution at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference.

“This conference was attended by over 20,000 people, and all presentation proposals are peer reviewed, so it was a real honor for them to be selected,” said Dr. Julie Ray, chair of the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education.”

The two applied to present at the conference in January and learned they had been accepted in July.

“We were very honored to be selected for this presentation because there are thousands of applicants for this national conference,” Zurek said. “We feel being student presenters gave us an advantage in the selection process.”

She said they chose their presentation topic to showcase all Southeast has done to prepare education majors for success in their future careers as educators.

“We also wanted to share the knowledge we have gained with others, giving them an opportunity to use technology in different ways in their own classrooms,” Mohnsen said.

Zurek says Southeast’s EDvolution initiative has helped Southeast’s education majors prepare for life after college, well before they have their own jobs. The EDvolution is designed to develop teacher candidates to be leaders in using and integrating current and emerging technology, model 21st century teaching techniques and enhance the learning outcomes of all students.

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Kylie Zurek, left, and Madison Mohnsen are graduating as tech competent teachers.

Zurek and Mohnsen are among Southeast’s education majors who in 2014 joined in the One-to-One initiative now trademarked the “EDvolution.” The effort has paved the way for every Southeast education major to rent or purchase an iPad Air pre-loaded with apps for use in the classroom. The one-to-one initiative is improving tech competency and preparing Southeast’s education majors for teaching positions in many school districts where one-to-one initiatives already have been adopted.

“Southeast’s EDvolution initiative has given us the advantage we need to succeed in the world of education,” Zurek said. “It has shown us several different ways to use technology in the classroom before even having our own classroom. We have been exposed to so many different applications and websites that we may not have otherwise been exposed to without the EDvolution initiative.”

Exposure to some of those apps came during classroom discussions and “Appy Wednesdays,” a once-a-month gathering during the noon hour where students and faculty share new apps that can be applied in the classroom and beyond. Using their iPads and an Apple TV, participants show off and share classroom resources available via apps in Southeast’s new EDvolution Center.

The EDvolution Center, dedicated in August, provides a modern, high-tech environment for students to use to develop their skills, incorporating technology into their educational practices. In addition, the Center promotes collaboration between students and faculty. The EDvolution Center includes the Jean Whitaker Demonstration Classroom, where students can videotape lectures, capture lectures and use an Apple TV and SMART Board. Another room off the Center is available to practice teaching lessons while students learn to use classroom technology for their field assignments. The room, called the “collaboratory,” is equipped with an iMAC, AppleTV and SMARTBoard. The Center also includes a space where students can create green screen videotape lessons to be incorporated into online curricula.

Recently, the EDvolution Center unveiled its latest addition in the lab dubbed the “Makerspace.” The Makerspace, designed to enhance the lesson creation experience, includes advanced technology resources and equipment for teacher candidates to take their lessons to the next level. Currently, the Makerspace is home to a 3D printer, coding robotics, virtual reality goggles and mobile green screen technology, with additional technologies scheduled to be added throughout 2017.

Other tech tools available in the Center are computers, a professional green screen room and spaces for students to make their own videos and “flip” their classrooms. There also are practice model classrooms where students can videotape themselves teaching, watch their mannerisms, practice teaching and assess their performance.

At the center are three Mediascapes, a collaborative space with two side-by-side monitors surrounded by a u-shaped desk around which students can work. At the Mediascape, students hook up their own device via an HDMI cable and project it to one of the monitors, allowing them to collaborate and share their work with classmates. People from off-campus also can Skype into discussions and participate from remote locations at the Mediascape.

“We live in a world today where children know more about the technology than their parents or teachers who use it,” Mohnsen said. “We believe it is our job as educators to be up-to-date with all the modern technology, not only to improve a student’s education, but also to keep them safe when using online websites and applications. We need to teach our students that technology isn’t just for fun, but for expanding our learning.”

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Kylie Zurek, left, and Madison Mohnsen were invited to present at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference in Los Angeles.

At the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference, Mohnsen and Zurek presented on the various ways Southeast has shown them how to use technology in the classroom as well as in other aspects of a student’s life. They focused on several websites, including Prodigy and Nearpod, and parent communication and classroom management apps.

“We showcased our favorites and how we used them in our block experiences and in student teaching,” Zurek said.

Now, the two are turning their attention to their futures as tech competent teachers.

Mohnsen hopes to land a first, second or third grade teaching position back in Nebraska. Zurek is looking for a kindergarten, first or second grade position in Rock Falls, Illinois, where she is headed to join her fiancé.

“We hope to take all the technology knowledge we have gained in our years at Southeast and apply as much as we possibly can in our own future classrooms,” Mohnsen said.