Champions of the Modern Classroom

With the right technology, scalable personalization becomes possible. 

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Joe Dixon of Teq CREDIT Thomas Simonetti, Teq Corporate JournalistAn education technology and professional development company, Teq is dedicated to improving student learning. They’ve been in business for nearly 40 years and have some 200-plus employees, including a team of more than 30 education professionals that work to improve student achievement by nurturing and supporting teacher creativity, improving technology integration and integrating Common Core curriculum. The Huntington, New York-based company works closely with K-12 schools in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Now, with their new

Teachers are not just watching videos, but they are participating in a live web-based course and interacting with other teachers taking the class.

online professional development offering, they are able to work with schools around the country. Before joining Teq as Chief Learning Officer, Joe Dixon (pictured) was the executive director of the Kornreich Technology Center at Abilities!, in Albertson, New York, where his team was responsible for the research, development and implementation of new, inclusive technologies for education. With a focus in the field of educational and assistive technology (AT), Joe has served as a special education teacher, AT specialist, and educational technology director. He helped found the Mid-South Access Center for Technology at the University of Memphis, and his many innovations in PD for teachers include partnerships in designing and facilitating courses with Lehman College and Teachers College, Columbia University.

Victor: Can you tell me about the new online PD offering from Teq?

Teq logoJoe: We have provided professional development to thousands of teachers for nearly a decade and are excited to bring that same level of quality and engagement to an online platform. We have an amazing team led by our eLearning and Curriculum Specialist, Joseph Sanfilippo that has been working on this product for the past two years.

Teq Online PD launched on December 17 and is the first live, interactive professional development offering for K-12 educators. Teq Online PD courses are broadcast live via the web, providing a format that allows educators to interact with our team and the other course educators. Educators are also able to review the recorded interaction at their own pace with live support from our Instructional Technologist, Curriculum Specialists, and the larger community of teachers.

It enables teachers to complete courses to meet their professional development requirements without having to miss valuable class time — as our online PD classes are offered at various times for maximum flexibility. We offer more than 50 web-based classes (1.5 hour sessions) including Digital Teacher Certification, Google Apps for education, Learning with the iPad, Early Childhood Literacy and more. The feedback from the teachers that have already had a chance to try Teq Online PD has been overwhelming positive. Teq Online PD is already helping teachers to maximize technology integration, implement the Common Core and increase their effectiveness.

Victor: What are some of the most interesting projects you are working on, including the NAO robots, etc.?

Joe: We are excited to be working with the NAO (pronounced “now”) Academic Humanoid Robot and JumpStart NAO (a Teq exclusive) to help students’ build important critical thinking and problem solving skills while promoting small group collaboration, communication and team building to achieve solutions.

And, Teq is the exclusive New York state and New Jersey K-12 marketplace distributor of NAO Robot. It is designed to captivate and fully engage students in the complex learning demanded by STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and Core Curriculum Standards. We are working with South Huntington Middle School, Randolph, New Jersey and selected schools in New York City to roll it out into the classroom.

With JumpStart NAO, students are introduced to a wide range of robotics-related fields, including computer science, engineering and physics. It provides a comprehensive, hands on approach that enables educators to quickly become proficient with what the NAO robot has to offer.

We are also working with TED prizewinner, professor Sugata Mitra, to bring his SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environment) to classrooms. Recently, Teq brought together students from a Randolph, New Jersey school, a Huntington, New York school and from George Stephenson High School in New Castle, UK in a SOLE lesson activity, challenging them to answer a big question.

Another exciting project is a five-year plan to integrate computer science offerings into the Chicago Public Schools, including teaching computer science in its high schools.  

Victor: What do you see as the biggest challenge that schools teachers are facing today with regards to technology? And, how do you help meet that challenge?

CREDIT Teq PD venn-blossomJoe: The biggest challenge we see is that schools have invested in technology but aren’t using it to its fullest capability, because they don’t have a clear roadmap of how to use it. So, there are a lot of teachers out there that are excited about technology but don’t have the resources (professional development, bandwidth, etc.) to use it.

To help solve this problem, we have an extensive professional development program that helps the teacher gain the necessary mindset to use technology. With our in-person professional development (with a team of 30 instructors), we actually work side by side with teachers in the their classrooms and sometimes even co-teach a class. With this approach, we aren’t pulling teachers out of the classroom, and it also enables us to help them use technology in a way that works for their students. In addition, we have a new online PD offering that is live and interactive (meaning that that participants can ask questions and interact with the instructor live), enabling the teacher to gain valuable skills without missing any class time, and is also very cost-effective for the school.

Victor: What do you see as the most important (or, we could say, useful) educational technologies for 2014?

CREDIT TeqJoe: The most important educational technologies for 2014 are:

1. Social learning platforms. Social learning platforms (such as Edmodo and BloomBoard) empower teachers to collaborate with educators from all over the world; therefore, enabling them to exponentially increase their network of support. And, introduce them to new methodologies, tools, and resources to support their practice.

2. Digital learning environments and tablets (including iPad, Android, and Samsung, etc.) will empower teachers to deliver on the promise of collaboration and the personalization of learning. Just imagine being able modify any learning object to meet your needs. That is the promise of a digital curriculum coupled with tablets.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education in general these days? 

Joe: I am extremely excited about what is happening with the personalization of learning today. I am a special education teacher at my core, and in serving students with special needs we always had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). In the past, there was no feasible way to scale that approach to all the students in a school. Today, with technology, the teacher has the ability to personalize instruction for each student and thereby greatly improve the learning for each individual.

Victor: Anything else you care to add or emphasize concerning education, technology or anything else for that matter?

Joe: Today’s technology has evolved to make offerings like our new Online PD possible — where teachers are not just watching videos, but they are participating in a live web-based course and interacting with other teachers taking the class. This exemplifies what we will see more of in the future — personalized learning that is interactive and collaborative.

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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