SIERRA VISTA — Tiffany Jay-Claycomb and Rhea Morales talked intently from behind a computer screen, looking at a collection of lesson plans and PDFs about merging technology and math in the classroom.
They weren’t alone.
At other tables across the room, the two were surrounded by a handful of other local educators interested in making their classrooms more tech-friendly, exploring computational websites like Wolfram Alpha and collaboration software like Padlet.
More than 20 local educators from all over the county, including teachers from Bisbee and Tombstone schools, enrolled in a four-day technology bootcamp at Cochise College that teaches instructors of all grade levels how to blend technology and math instruction in order to make tougher subjects a little less daunting for their students.
The course is the first of its kind, put on by Cochise College, the University of Arizona South and Biosphere 2. It’s funded by a grant provided by the National Science Foundation for The Collaborative Noyce Border Scholars Program along the Arizona-Mexico Border.
As a whole, the program helps foster an environment rich in science, technology, engineering and math for students near the border region and helped bring this week’s tech course to fruition.
The course is just one part of that program and funded by the $1.5 million grant given to researchers in 2016 for the Noyce Border Scholars Program, which also goes toward a larger project extending to 2021.
The week’s four-day course was specifically designed to help local educators implement tech in the classroom and better teach their students.
Kristy Ritter, Cochise College math instructor and course facilitator, said there’s plenty for teachers to learn when it comes to taking tech into their classrooms. She and Angela Garcia, Cochise College math instructor and tech course facilitator, noticed an absence of tech in grade school learning.
So Ritter and Garcia decided to do something to help teachers learn more about their options.
“There was just such a lack of technology being utilized in our schools and with our students,” Ritter said.
When it came down to it, some teachers didn’t know where to start.
“The teachers wanted to use technology, but they weren’t sure what’s good and what was going to work for their classrooms,” Garcia said.
These days, Ritter said math, technology and learning really go hand in hand with one other.
Bringing tech into the classrooms not only helps students learn more effectively, but also gets them prepared for their future. Ritter said they learn new skills that they can take with them beyond the classroom and into the real world.
“We’re finding that our students are being prepared for jobs that don’t exist right now,” she said. “They have to have the ability to change and to adapt to the newest technology — that is the world we live in. If we can teach them researching and problem-solving and getting the right answer, then they can tackle any problem that comes at them in the future.”
But tech isn’t exclusive to math and science teachers.
Garcia said instructors from all backgrounds took the course with a common goal: to better themselves and their students.
The sentiment rings true with Jay-Claycomb, a first-time teacher in Sierra Vista. She graduated from UA South in May and plans to start teaching third grade this fall. As a new teacher, Jay-Claycomb said at first she was apprehensive to try the tech course, but realized just how much it can help her students and her technique as an educator.
“I’m learning about a lot of different apps that I can definitely use with students,” she said. “I want to be able to come out with some solid strategies to be able to help these third graders, especially with math. I don’t want to go in with any negativity.”
For Morales, a 17-year teaching veteran in the Bisbee Unified School District, technology has taken the classroom by storm.
“There are things that we can apply whether we are teaching the third grade or high schoolers, which is pretty phenomenal,” she said.
After the course ends, Morales said she plans to take what she’s learned and help teach her fellow Bisbee educators about technology in the classroom.