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Q&A: Boyne Tech Conference empowers educators to tie in tech

Teachers take a seat in the classroom during a Boyne Tech Conference breakout session.

Boyne Tech Conference attendees listen attentively to a presentation.

For Erin Luckhardt, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Boyne City Middle School, the reality of teaching “digital natives” is clear -- including technology-focused curriculum into everyday learning puts students at an advantage.
As the co-director of the Boyne Tech Conference, Luckhardt and her team work to host an annual collaborative day of learning for educators statewide to share their transformative classroom technology experiences. InspirED recently chatted with Luckhardt as she shared how Boyne Tech came to fruition, how the program empowers teachers and how students are adapting to technology in the classroom.
Can you speak briefly on your role as Boyne Tech Conference co-director and what drove you to get involved with this program?

Luckhardt: A few years ago our district was sending teachers across the state of Michigan to visit other schools and attend technology conferences, while we were working on a technology initiative that would better incorporate effective technology integration in the classrooms. At first we enjoyed the experiences and learned a ton from those schools or individuals who were a step ahead of us. Eventually, though, we realized a lot of our teachers could be leading the sessions! As more of our staff members presented at leading tech conferences in the state like MACUL, we realized we had a lot to offer in Northern Michigan. Our administration team was looking for someone to head up the conference. I now teach eighth-grade social studies but prior to this, I was our district's technology coach. I jumped on board because it gave me a place to utilize my interest in helping teachers utilize technology effectively.
Why do you believe early incorporation of technology in students' academic lives is imperative to their overall education?

Luckhardt: I think this question is two-fold. One, students are going to be utilizing some sort of technology in their everyday lives when they are out of high school, so as schools it's our job to help them gain some exposure. Sure, the technology won't be the same, but understanding how to use a word processor or presentation tool has value regardless of its version. Secondly, I think that technology can help to improve student engagement, effort and production. When students have access to a wealth of resources they are more likely to find something on a specific topic that is helpful to them. Additionally, if students know that their end product could be shared with more than 'just the teacher' they're more likely to work harder and give it their best effort!
Can you speak to the goals of the Boyne Tech Conference and how it empowers Michigan educators?

Luckhardt: Our goal is to move past 'the technology' and work towards 'effective teaching that integrates technology'. We want teachers to learn some new skills, but also to build their learning network. It's not about what device you have, but how you're encouraging students to use the device -- that's really what we're working towards!
What do you see as the future of tech in classrooms in the next five to 10 years?

Luckhardt: I think we will definitely see more blended classrooms where learning occurs both synchronously and asynchronously (not necessarily a divide of 'at home' and 'at school' but online opportunities as well as face-to-face). Technology is a part of our everyday lives so it certainly isn't going anywhere. I think teachers will get better and better at integrating technology because it's beneficial to student learning, too, not just because it's the newest app or device.
What are a couple simple tips for teachers who may be hesitant to incorporate technology-based curriculum in their lesson plans?

Luckhardt: Start slowly! Don't feel like you have to do a complete overhaul of lesson plans. When I was a tech coach I always encouraged teachers to think about the lessons that weren't their very best and try to refine them using technology. But also, we have to start with the end in mind -- what do we want students to be able to know or do? Then, as we work through that, how can technology help us, not the other way around.
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