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Using Technology to Give Students a Voice: A Spotlight on Westview Hills Middle School Media Technology Specialist Kristen Novotny

Kristen Novotny is new to District 60, but she is already finding ways to collaborate, engage, and elevate learning for students at Westview Hills. With experience working in a school library, she prioritizes making sure students stay excited about reading, but also provides them with voice and choice to support their learning. 


She says she is still learning the ins and outs of the school, but gets to spend time with teachers in different departments across grade levels to observe, learn about the curriculum, and propose ways to bring intentional and meaningful use of technology to the school day. If a teacher usually has students give presentations about a topic, she works with them to enhance the learning and introduce another option like creating a video or creating a dynamic google slides presentation.


“When I am working with teachers, I look at what they have planned and we find ways to take it to the next level,” said Novotny. “We aren’t using technology just for the sake of using it, but really thinking about how the technology benefits the student. We don’t want to just replace a pen and paper for a word document, we want to bump it up to the next level.”


During the school day, she gets to go into different classes and do some collaboration and co-teaching, share lessons and projects, as well as run the library and creation station where students can use the green screen technology. For middle school students, research is a big part of their work, so they are able to dive into different sources of information, learning important skills about finding a credible source, evaluating sources, and fact checking along the way. 

Projects take many different forms. Students in sixth grade recently read novels and chose from different technology tools like google slides, video, or screencastify to show the storyline and plot of their novel. There are also plans with a math teacher to have students create videos where they explain how they solved problems to show their work in a very engaging way. 


“I think technology is a great way to engage students,” said Novotny. “We can use it as a voice for students who may not always raise their hands while also making sure students are being good digital citizens and digitally literate.”


Some classrooms use Kahoot, a program that allows students to participate in lessons as if they are playing a game while allowing the teacher to be able to assess learning as they go. Padlet is another way that teachers can allow for collaboration and instant feedback as students can create timelines, portfolios, or other tools while chatting and working together. While technology tools continue to change and evolve overtime, the way that teachers use them to support learning should continue to be a priority. 


“Middle schoolers are developing skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives including creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration,” said Novotny. “The beauty of technology is that we are setting up situations where kids can do those things going forward. Technology is definitely part of the culture here and we keep finding new and innovative ways to refresh what teachers are doing that fits authentically.”