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Teacher Earns Tech Award

Corey Holmer, technology integration coach and lead STEM facilitator at Crystal Lake Elementary District 47, was recently honored with the award for Outstanding Young Educator.
Crystal Lake tech teacher Corey Holmer was recently honored with the award for Outstanding Young Educator.

Crystal Lake teacher Corey Holmer recognized for transforming classrooms into 21st century learning environments.

Corey Holmer, technology integration coach and lead STEM facilitator at Crystal Lake Elementary District 47, was recently honored with the award for Outstanding Young Educator from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Holmer is recognized for piloting a district-wide iPad program and transforming his classroom into a 21st century learning environment.

He discussed the significance of the ISTE honor, details about his iPad program and how technology is shaping District 47 – and others’ – classrooms.

McHenry County Living: The Outstanding Young Educator award recognizes teachers under 35 years old. It’s quite an accomplishment. What does it mean to you?

Corey Holmer: First off, the award makes me a member of the ISTE Young Educator Network. This group is made up of educators from all over the world who are working to improve education with the use of technology. As a member of the group, I will have the opportunity to participate in digital professional development and help build the growing community. In addition to earning the award, I am most excited about the connections and networking that will occur through ISTE and other professional organizations. I have already begun building these connections through Twitter, podcasts and their online community.

My passion is helping teachers reimage instruction and learning within their classroom. Outside of the ISTE community, this honor will help me continue my goal of supporting educators and students on the use of technology. My job is to provide evolving professional development resulting in innovative instruction. By offering professional development and support to the staff of District 47, my goal is to nurture personal and professional growth in myself and colleagues, directly promoting a positive change in the learning environment. Being a part of this ISTE Young Educator Network will aide me in this goal.

Through this opportunity, I can extend my professional reach beyond my district so that I can transform as a professional and coach others through their own transformation.

Holmer leads an iPad tutorial at Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake.
Holmer leads an iPad tutorial at Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake.

MCL: Tell us a little bit more about the iPad program that impressed ISTE.

CH: Over the past four years, District 47 has worked to build a strong iPad education program for students and staff. Starting in 2012, I was a 7th grade science teacher. During this time, I was awarded a class set of iPads to help transform my classroom into a true 21st century learning environment. With the help of the technology curriculum team, we worked together to transition my students from analog to digital learners. We combined the power of the iPad with the App Store and an inquiry-based learning style to enhance their critical-thinking, problem-solving and collaboration skills.

Following the successful iPad rollout, the district began adding more class sets of iPads through the three middle schools. The reach of technology extended even further with the addition of iPads in the 4th and 5th grade classrooms. This program started to take off, helping to build the vision of a 21st century district.

After two years in the classroom, I stepped out of the role as teacher and began as a district-wide technology integration facilitator alongside Kirstin Thorsen. Together, we supported staff and students on the integration of technology in the classroom. At this point, we were increasing the number of devices in both the elementary and middle schools to allow both the students and teacher the opportunity to truly use the powerful technology to foster student learning and build real world skills.

The program as a whole has been successful. Throughout our district we have nearly 45 middle school classes with full sets of iPads, five devices in each elementary classroom, and iPad carts available to the staff for checkout. To better support the growing technology needs, we now staff six certified teachers as district iCoaches (integration coaches). Together we work as a team to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world by allowing students the opportunity to learn that technology is more than a tool, but rather a driving force for change.

“To me, a classroom of the future is heavily focused on student choice. With access to Internet-connected devices, like the iPad, we are no longer confined to a single textbook or mass-copied work. We now have access to unlimited resources. This technology has the ability to transform student motivation and performance.”

MCL: What is your vision for the future of District 47 classrooms?

CH: The classroom of the future, that is a tough one. Off the top of my head, I think we are close to a “future” classroom in many of our buildings.

To me, a classroom of the future is heavily focused on student choice. With access to Internet-connected devices, like the iPad, we are no longer confined to a single textbook or mass-copied work. We now have access to unlimited resources. This technology has the ability to transform student motivation and performance.

Within this student-driven classroom, I would also like to see a form of challenged-based or project-lead learning occurring on a regular basis. Both of these teaching styles require a sprinkle of lecture and teacher modeling, but the majority of learning should occur using a well-crafted question or problem to solve. The foundational learning would take place prior to the question, allowing students to pull from their past knowledge/experiences to solve the problem. This type of teaching would allow for individualized learning, dependent on the student’s needs, experiences and goals.

Besides classroom learning, I also see the opportunity to connect with real-world individuals and career experts to have them serve as drop-in teachers or mentors for students. This type of multi-teacher learning will allow students to utilize professionals as a resource for problem-solving and making connections to future opportunities. This could take the form of career weeks, individual research projects, professional mentors or field trips. Learning can now reach beyond the classroom into communities outside of Crystal Lake, Ill.

MCL: Why is it important to embrace and implement technology in our schools?

CH: Technology facilitates transformation. In my experience, one cannot exist without the other. We live in a connected world, where students and teachers have access to information at their fingertips. As educators, we take on the role of teacher and role model for proper technology use. By embracing technology in the classroom, we are tasked with modeling proper use and reinforcing collaboration, critical thinking and technology skills. This is a shift in teaching and thinking for many teachers. As continuing learners, we teachers we must further our knowledge of the technology hardware and software.

There are so many free resources out there that schools can utilize, which becomes increasingly important as school budgets are shrinking. Technology is here to stay and teaching students what they can do with it is to everyone’s advantage. Technology opens up new ways for students to learn and think about things. The more our staff and students understand about technology, the better equipped students will be for a variety of future careers.

ISTE is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the use of information technology to aid in learning, teaching of K-12 students and teachers. Learn more at iste.org

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