Ed tech director gets world spotlight

McMonagle sees rapid changes in teaching, learning

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When Kim McMonagle talks about how technology is changing education, she exudes a contagious level of excitement. As the Douglas County School District’s director of educational technology, part of her job is to infuse teachers with some of that same enthusiasm.

Her success in doing so recently earned her the international spotlight as a speaker at the largest online education conference. McMonagle was among 12 teachers worldwide who spoke during the Aug. 7 Edmodo.com conference. Edmodo, often called the Facebook of education, is a learning site that offers teachers and students a collaborative learning experience.

McMonagle’s presentation focused on how teachers can use Edmodo and other online resources to prepare students for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related careers. But Edmodo can be used with any subject.

It’s the way of the future, McMonagle believes.

“When I look back at what we were doing in 2005, it’s almost nothing compared to what we are doing in the world of education today,” she said. “All of these tools have gotten so much easier. Teachers are starting to create online virtual learning experiences. It’s allowing them to differentiate and change the way we teach and learn.”

Unlike Facebook, Edmodo and similar sites like Schoology are restricted to participants and parents, who can log in to check their students’ progress and communicate with teachers.

In 2010, DCSD set up its own Edmodo account. It’s an option particularly appealing to elementary school teachers, more and more of whom are using the site to supplement the classroom experience.

“What’s really evolved since 2010 is having our students have an authentic voice in their learning and really sharing deeply what they think and understand about their learning,” McMonagle said. “We call it giving voice to all the participants in the classroom. When we think about what’s changed in education, if a teacher asked a question, you let two or three students respond and you move on. What happens to the voices of the other 25 students?”

In a virtual Edmodo classroom, all students can chime in with responses and ask questions.

It also allows teachers and students to connect to Edmodo participants around the world. McMonagle used ecosystems as a topic ripe for a broader debate. A teacher, she said, “can post, ‘I’m looking for another classroom somewhere in the world that’s going to be posting about ecosystems. That (discussion) can get to economics, lifestyles, where are good places in the world to live. One topic can go cross-curricular.”

The change in educational style “is coming at teachers fast and furious,” McMonagle said. “If you’re new to technology, it can feel overwhelming. How we support our teachers is huge right now.”

That’s why people like McMonagle and events like the Edmodo.com conference play vital roles.

In 2012, 12,000 educators from 50 states and 117 countries registered for the conference. That worldwide link, reflected not only in the conference participants but in the program itself, delights McMonagle.

“It’s the idea that we’re so globally connected,” she said. “The world is flat. It’s easy to connect. We’re neighbors.”

McMonagle also recently earned state recognition as the 2013 winner of the Colorado Association of Leaders in Educational Technology’s Outstanding Technology Administrator Award.

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