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Pinellas school district program help teachers keep up with technology

Tondra Kelly, left, gives Sara Smith some tips on how to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet during a Cafe 2.1 session in the Maximo Elementary School library on Tuesday.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Tondra Kelly, left, gives Sara Smith some tips on how to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet during a Cafe 2.1 session in the Maximo Elementary School library on Tuesday.

ST. PETERSBURG — Smart Boards, iPads, iPhones, projectors, Moodle, Portal.

The plethora of gadgets and gizmos teachers are expected to use can be overwhelming, especially for those whose most sophisticated tool of choice is a new box of squeaky white chalk.

The result: Cafe 2.1.

Modeled after Apple's Genius Bar (one-on-one technical support for customers in any Apple store), Cafe 2.1 provides 30-minute help sessions for district employees with school-related technology questions. Employees from cafeteria staff to principals can register for a session from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

"I hate to see all this money being spent on technology and none of it is really being used," said Sue Godfirnon, a kindergarten teacher at Bay Point Elementary who participated in a session recently at Maximo Elementary.

Cafe 2.1 is also offered at Palm Harbor University High and Morgan Fitzgerald Middle, giving employees a north, south and mid county option.

"We want teachers to feel comfortable with the technology they are using," said Nancy Buckles, a 30-year teaching veteran and employee of Cafe 2.1. "Sometimes teachers feel out-smarted by their students. Now, they can ask unanswered questions."

The cafe is staffed by district employees with ample technology experience. So far, the district has employed about 12 "techxperts" for the three locations.

For now, Godfirnon is working on learning more about Portal, a program with teaching applications such as e-mail, attendance and a grade book.

She plans to attend more sessions at Cafe 2.1 to learn how to create a website for her class.

"Parents love to go on to their child's class website,'' she said. "It's a great way to communicate."

Now that Godfirnon is learning more about technology, she's eager to use it.

"Cafe 2.1 will springboard employees into finding out more about technology and taking it back to their classroom," Buckles said. "That's really what these sessions are all about."

Sabrina Rocco can be reached at (727) 893-8862 or srocco@sptimes.com

Pinellas school district program help teachers keep up with technology 05/14/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 14, 2011 2:42pm]
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