Digital Literacy Taught at STEAM Conference

This year well over 650 attended, with some coming from Yancey, Henderson, Madison, and even Charlotte Mecklenburg. Seven sessions were held each day, running from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. This is the third year STEAM—which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math — has been held at North Buncombe High School, but the first year that other county educators have been invited to attend.

Barry Pace, Director of Technology and Robert Frisby, Assistant Director of Technology, worked tirelessly with many to organize this two-day conference. They “want to be sure to keep the students at the conference are engaged, so the classes are mostly 45 minutes. The floor plan of North Buncombe High School works well with a conference such as this, as it is all on one floor and easy to navigate, ” said Frisby. “Dr. Sircey , the new principal at North Buncombe, was on board with the needed preparations. She was certainly supportive and helpful.”

Dr. Tony Baldwin, Superintendent of Schools, opened the morning session and thanked so many for coming. He stated, “It is so important that before the first laptop comes in, the teachers themselves must be comfortable using them. Brand new teachers are more familiar with the digital technology, but the older teachers must get to a comfort level and feel confident to lead the students. Timing is so important.”

He then spoke of the one-to-one initiative that was planned by the County almost 5 years ago. Baldwin thinks, “This is one of the best decisions made. It is important to make sure the cart is not in front of the horse.” One-to-one refers to one computer for every student, which is the goal of Buncombe County and supported by state and local capital funds. An overview of the Initiative Timeline shown on the Buncombe Schools website says: “2016-2018: 4th-12th grades will receive a Windows touchscreen device with a keyboard. K-3 will continue “Shared Use” iPads moving towards one-to-one ratio in 2018/19.”

The STEAM conferences help teachers to better understand how technology can bring greater creativity to the student and make for a rich learning experience in the classroom. Technology in today’s world plays such an important role. Vendors, whose products have already been purchased by the county, gave classes on their digital tools, and other STEAM Curriculum District Educators taught classes. Many subjects were covered in many fields. Besides learning more about the latest technological devices and equipment, one could attend a seminar that suggested social media guidelines for students. Students need to be fully aware of the consequences of their interactions online. Another class taught learning to decipher fact from fiction in today’s world. These and many other topics, are important for educators to be aware of and know about in the 21st century. They can then pass this information along to students.

The Power-Up Bus, EVIE (or EV Educational Vehicle), is a mobile learning lab and was parked outside North Buncombe High School providing Microsoft and STEM workshops. Inside there were interactive panels, interactive tables, devices, wireless, video, sound and STEM solutions. PowerUpEDU helps schools bridge the gap between technology and learning. Their mission is to power up the classroom with interactive technology, making the classroom fun and engaging for the students and teachers! Evie can be scheduled to visit your school. Just contact Jerry Gaillard at 215-4744 or for scheduling.

This STEAM conference offered educators a chance to learn and be more comfortable with the latest technology. The students will undoubtedly benefit from this. It is a new world with digital information “coming at you” at every turn, in every field of endeavor: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. For a teacher to be up-to-date digitally is incredibly important. It was gratifying to see so many local teachers willing to take time off from their short summer vacation to attend STEAM. Raffles and prizes were given by many sponsors, and food trucks were available for the first time this year. Buncombe County Schools by organizing the STEAM conferences are making sure the next generation of Americans are adequately prepared for the future.

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