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Tamika Peters sees every student in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade at Liberty Elementary School, where she has been teaching technology courses for seven years.
Before her EdTech fellow training this summer, “technology on the computer was … [trying] little things,” Peters, 33, says. Showing her younger students a new computer game—or how to turn the computer on—or guiding older students as they navigated their way through Microsoft Word.
Since completing training last month, Peters says her classes are filled with “a lot more structure” as she tries to “dig more into their knowledge that technology is just all around us.” She now talks to her pre-kindergarten classes about different parts of the computer. With her fifth-graders, she assigns a computer literacy game she found online or lets them trade off using different apps on her iPad.
Unlike some of her Digital Harbor Foundation colleagues, Peters—who has “always been in Baltimore”—didn’t come to teaching elementary school through Teach for America or the Baltimore City Teaching Residency. She became a longterm substitute teacher at Liberty after leaving a job in banking and spending time doing event planning for the Maryland Zoo.
However, like EdTech comrade Molly Adams, becoming a fellow this summer was something she was volunteered for by Liberty Elementary’s tech-loving principal, Joseph Manko. (One of the new things Manko has introduced to Liberty since arriving a few years back? Classrooms equipped with iPads.)
“You don’t tell Mr. Manko no,” Peters says. “But I’m glad he did it. I learned so much [at DHF] and now we’re like a tight-knit family.
“Coming in with a diverse group of people, I learned that I could do it,” she says. “The one thing I didn’t really like was programming, but I learned how to debug and I was really good at that.”
Another benefit, Peters says, of the EdTech fellowship is discovering a group of people in Baltimore city who “were willing to help us to improve education as a whole,” whether those teachers and administrators were directly involved with DHF or not.
During the school year, Peters plans to incorporate her interest in dancing, another class she teaches at Liberty, into the after-school tech club she’s helping oversee. Working with iPads, students will teach themselves different dance routines by watching YouTube videos, and then record themselves trying out the steps in order to edit short videos pulling together their own dances and music they’ve created in GarageBand.
Peters says it’s important that students in elementary school are exposed to technology, and that it’s teachers’ responsibility to enhance what they already know about new digital tools. Even something as simple as showing a student how to pull up an Internet window accidentally closed out of, she says, will help students “get over fears they might not even know they have.”
“Even before the fellowship, I knew that the world was moving to a technological age,” says Peters. “I took that as 45 minutes that I needed to teach [my students] something that could help them get to the next level.”-30-