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Draper Journal

Draper Elementary teachers take part in March Madness—technically

Apr 13, 2021 01:30PM ● By Julie Slama

A bulletin board at Draper Elementary displays a March Madness technology challenge for teachers to incorporate more technology into their teaching. (Kesha Prince/Draper Elementary)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In March, there was a little madness found at Draper Elementary. It was March Madness, but not in terms of selecting basketball teams for a bracket to be crowned NCAA champions.

Draper Elementary teachers could participate in the March Madness Coaching Challenge, a way that the achievement coach and educational technology coach were able to pump them up for a full month of teaching without an in-service or vacation day.

“March can seem like the longest month without any breaks, so we wanted to hype teachers up to make use of extra instructional tools,” said achievement coach Kaitlin Portzline. “We are challenging them to use technology and tools to engage students to increase the quality of instruction.”

Through a friendly competition, teachers were awarded points when they incorporated new tools, refined one or even had a coach introduce them so they could be part of their teaching.

“Our teachers are competitive in a healthy way,” said educational technology coach Kesha Prince. “We’re just incentivizing them to want to learn more.”

Each week, there was a tool that was highlighted. If the teacher hadn’t used it before, but learned about it from a coach, they were awarded a certain number of points. If the coach taught a lesson, or if they refined their skill, they received a different number of points. If a coach or administrator observed a lesson, they could get bonus points.

“Essentially, teachers are self-reporting on the skills we highlight that week,” Portzline said.

Weekly, five teachers were rewarded who earned the top amounts of points with prizes. At the end of the month, the two top winners—one from kindergarten through second-grade and another from third- through fifth-grade—who tried the most tools in their classrooms and gathered the most points were to be chosen for grand prizes. 

“By doing this, we’re pushing technology and better teaching,” Prince said, who also noted that in teachers’ evaluations it’s noted if technology is used effectively.

Some of the month’s teaching included online Savvas Realize, PowerPoints, Google Slides, Sentence Frames, and other formats. Teachers also could teach a digital citizen lesson.

“Some of them may have been familiar with the name, or have seen it, but haven’t ever used it or taught with it. We’re hoping to help them open up some new teaching methods to gain more student engagement,” Portzline said, adding that students were aware of the challenge so they could root for their teacher. “Draper is a tech-savvy school and they’re not opposed to learning it, but it’s been a tough year during COVID-19, so this is a way we can keep improving our teaching to our students.”