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Helping Teachers Use Technology Not as a ‘Neat-O’ Gimmick, But as a Genuine Tool to Support Learning

Quizlets, Flipgrids, Streams, Teams, OneNote, Nearpod, Sway. These are just a few of the online tools today’s teachers are using to deliver their lessons in new and innovative ways. For the past five years, Upper School educational technologist Donna Campbell-Patrick has been leading her colleagues into this new world with her trademark patience, good humor, and commitment to excellence. Her expertise has been even more instrumental and appreciated by her peers since our pivot to a blended learning model.

Donna says she has always leaned into technology. At UNCC, where she graduated at the top of her class with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry, she had her first real experience with technology.  

Donna Campbell Patrick

“When I began at Country Day as a chemistry and physics teacher, I found that I enjoyed using different technologies in my classroom and I quickly realized that students benefited, just as I had in college, from its use,” she says. While she incorporated new tools into the chemistry and physics courses she taught full-time, she also realized she liked helping her colleagues stretch out of their comfort zones. When an educational technology position became available three years ago, Donna was a natural fit.

Donna is an exemplar of the Country Day teacher—she is regularly pushing herself to learn something new, something better. She provides multiple ways of presenting information, from small group training sessions to archived online videos she has created, knowing that there will always be ‘students’ among the faculty who prefer the 1:1 instruction.

Tanya Andrysiak, Upper School director of studies

Donna, a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and a Certified Trainer, says “My goal is always to help teachers use technology affectively in the classroom, not as a ‘neat-o’ gimmick but as a genuine tool to support learning. I try to be the support they need to craft amazing lessons for our students. Regardless of their comfort level with technology, I get to meet them where they are and guide them through the process. Additionally, I also like working with students to show them new ways to use technology to enhance their own learning. And I’m very interested in how technology can help those with learning differences.”

When Country Day moved to emergency remote learning last spring, Donna quickly built out an expansive Ed Tech Hub within the Microsoft Teams platform to house tutorials, videos, and examples for teachers. In preparation for our current blended model, she hosted webinars, created test classes in Teams, and worked individually with teachers to help  them polish their skills on the tools needed to deliver their curriculum in person and remotely.

The Power of Technology

“I’m proud of our teachers,” says Donna. “In February, they were teaching all students in one classroom, able to collect paper assignments, use social cues and gestures to communicate with students, pass out a quiz, use active games and candy incentives—the things we had in high school. When I look at classes today, it is unbelievable to see the transformation the teachers have undergone. Teachers are currently using technology to change how those things are being delivered without compromising what is being delivered.

“English teachers are managing fruitful, synchronous discussions with students who are in the classroom and at home. History teachers are using technology to assess and provide meaningful feedback on the research process. Math teachers are innovating with Flipgrid to have students show their math steps. Science teachers are using virtual labs when the hands-on version puts students too close. Fine Arts teachers create Wakelets for at-home lessons and are implementing digital portfolios.

The teachers have grown and changed so our students can get the most out of each lesson, and each of these changes demonstrates to the student both the power of technology and that using it affectively is a necessary skill for whatever tomorrow may bring.

Donna Campbell-Patrick

“Donna is a master teacher, and she has adapted her approach from teaching our adolescents about physics and chemistry to helping her colleagues navigate this incredibly difficult period,” says Tanya. “I can’t imagine how much more complicated this would have been without her!”