Help Desk student Nick Whitney recently interviewed Ms. DeRosa, who is a new teacher at BHS who teaches algebra II, advanced algebra topics, and calculus. Nick is also a student of Ms. DeRosa, and here is the transcript of their conversation about technology and teaching at BHS.
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching for 24 years. The last couple months here in Burlington, and previously in West Boylston, for 12 years, and before that, I was in Ashburnham.
How is Burlington different from other schools you have taught at in the way we use technology?
Technology is much more prevalent here in Burlington than it was in any other district; in fact it is the reason I really wanted to come here. I’ve been wanting to come here for about 5 years since I started attending technology conferences here, so the things I have learned from being at different conferences here on Saturdays and things was really remarkable about the different ways you could use technology to pique kids’ interests and to keep student engagement In my former building they only had little carts that you would have to wheel into the room and the kids would have to take the computer out of the cart and put the computer back at the end of the block, so it made it very difficult because you had to take time passing out the things and having kids sign them out and then sign them back in. It also made it difficult because you had to locate where the cart was; a lot of times the cart was someplace in the building, somebody wouldn’t have signed it out, and you had to go and locate it and it was a very frustrating way to teach.
What are some of the issues you have run into with technology here at Burlington, wether it be the apps we use or the Smartboard, or the Apple TV?
So being new I have been able to play with the devices a little bit, I have the SmartBoard and I have the Apple TV, but I haven’t had a lot of training on it yet, so everything is kind of me hunting and pecking and trying to figure out how to operate the things. Having never used the SmartBoard before, it’s been kind of a challenge, so it would be nice to have some kind of professional development that new teachers could use to figure out how to use these resources.
One major issue people bring up is the distractions technology offers for students during class, how do you find a way to facilitate the learning and minimize the distractions while teaching?
That’s a very difficult thing which I think everyone continues to battle, my underlying principle always is that you as students, you need to learn how to moderate your use of technology. When you go to college, you’re not going to have someone standing over you. When you go into your workplace, you’re not not going to have someone constantly telling you put your cell phone away or stop looking at YouTube or whatever. So students really need to learn to monitor their own behavior. But in the classroom what I try to do is, whenever possible, walk around, make sure that students are on their correct app or the their correct place they’re supposed to be on the web; and those that aren’t, I have to redirect them to go to what they’re supposed to be doing and normally just a simple redirection gets them back of task. But it seems like it’s the same kind of people that are constantly having that issue, and so when you’re trying to run a class that is loaded with technology, it makes it kind of difficult.
Do you enjoy the use of technology in the classroom, or do you prefer limited or restricted use, and how do you feel we can better maintain the distractions?
Like what I had said, I had come here because everybody has their own device, so as far as that goes, I use the iPads every single day in class. Any of the classwork I generate I post in the Google Classroom; everything is linked so students can easily click on the links and see what the classwork is for the day. Often times they’ll be able to click and see what the homework is if it’s not from the textbook. So, I use it daily and I use it extensively to kind of create the worksheets that we would have used to use paper for.
Do you feel technology has forced you to change the way you teach or do you feel it helps benefit or elevate the way you teach?
I thinks it’s really elevated the way I teach because now basically my entire unit oplan is exposed to the kids so they can see what my objectives are for the day, they know what the warm up is everyday, they know what the assignments are for the day, so organizationally I think it is has been a major improvement in the way that I teach. I had done some of Google Classroom work and made units last year, but the students weren’t utilizing it because they didn’t have devices, so they couldn’t do all the things that kids from Burlington could do. They also didn’t know things about Notability, so it really amazes me when I watch kids take worksheets that I put online and they download them into Notability, and their writing right of the worksheets, and that use of technology amazes me that kids can organize themselves. I have also tried to find different ways to engage kids, so i’ll use things like Socrative apps, I’ll use different things, I’ve used in the past scavenger hunts, where you put up barcodes throughout the school or put up QR codes, and kids have to run around and look for the QR codes and find them and gather all of their math knowledge around the building. Now I haven’t started that at Burlington yet, because this is an enormous building and i’m afraid I’d get some kids lost, but that’s one of the ways I’ve used the technology in the past. There’s all kind of new things constantly being invented and I’m constantly on the lookout for something to engage kids and find something new for them to do, so that they find it interesting.
What do you feel is the best part of technology in the school and also the worst part?
The best part of technology is the fact that everyone got their own device so that’s awesome. I haven’t really seen any drawbacks to any of the technology, I mean everything has its benefits, the SmartBoards have their benefits, I just wish I knew how to use it better, but the Internet sometimes gets a little wonky and I’ve heard the Apple TV’s will frequently just drop off which I haven’t experienced yet because I haven’t played with it a lot here, but other than that I think that the technology is just superior to any other place I’ve seen or been.
What are some other thing you you want students or other people to know about you?
I have been teaching over a long time, I have a lot of experience, I also have three kids at home of my own that are ages 20, 18, and 15, so I’m around teenagers all day, I’m around teenagers all night and basically I guess what they need to know is everything I do is for a reason, and the way that I teach is I want kids to learn math and I want them to be experts in math and I want them to be able to master the material; I don’t want them to not know things when they leave so the fact that I’m walking around and constantly harping on people to get their work done or to make sure that they’re understanding , those things are because I really care. I don’t want to leave anybody in the just, I don’t want anyone to feel like “I don’t know what I’m doing,” I want them to leave here feeling like they’re math rock stars like they know it so, when they go to the next level I want them to feel like “I really learned it in the last level.” That’s what I think kids need to know, sometime kids are just like don’t bother me or have an attitude every once and while and I just want them to know that i’m here for them and I that I care about them and I want them to learn.