Classroom technology has already come a long way from blackboards and chalk, but UH College of Education Alum Sheri Alford is on a mission to bring her district’s classrooms to the next level, furnishing them with devices that feature technology similar to smartphones. Alford, who serves as Director of Educational Technology in Spring Branch ISD, is currently focused on introducing a tool called the Promethean Activboard.
The Promethean Activboard is an interactive whiteboard that acts not only as a space for the instructor to write, but can also show video and access the internet. Instead of simply doing work at the blackboard, students can interact with dynamic, moving images and literally make their mark. Even from their desks, students use a response system that ties data back to the Activboard and gives teachers a real-time snapshot of student progress.
Spring Branch is a large, culturally diverse Houston school district that serves 32,000 students in 46 schools. Alford's challenge is to assure that the district's many teachers are introduced to the technology and prepared to make the most of it. In Alford’s initiative, each teacher’s classroom will be equipped with an Activboard, student response system and projector. To help teachers with this technology transition, each teacher is supported in the design and delivery of curriculum through the ACTIVclassroom format.
Alford recently helped organize the 2010 ActivEducator Symposium at Memorial High School, during which teachers were trained to effectively use the technology. The Symposium also gave participating teachers the opportunity to share ideas about integrating technology into their classrooms. The next symposium, scheduled for January 2011, will feature Heidi Hayes Jacobs, author of the acclaimed book Curriculum 21. "We are very excited to have her present not only the keynote but the leadership sessions that follow," says Alford. The symposium is open to anyone, but due to the high number of participants, organizers must now charge a small registration fee to out-of-district registrants to cover meals. The increased popularity is, of course, a good sign for the direction of technology and teaching in Alford’s district and beyond.
At the 2010 ActivAdministrator Conference at the UH College of Education in August, Alford (pictured left) served on a panel of experts. She presented information about the transformation of Spring Branch classrooms as they benefited from 21st Century technology.
She earned her Master’s in Education in Instructional Technology and her Bachelor’s of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies here at the UH College of Education. During more than 25 years in education, Alford has gained practical experience as a classroom teacher, leader, and currently as a district administrator. She uses her past experiences to provide training and professional development to PreK-12 teachers and administrators as they seek to meet the challenges of educating today’s learners.