AJA Faculty Sharpen STEAM Skills Over  the Summer

AJA Faculty Sharpen STEAM Skills Over the Summer

AJA teacher Kayla Solomon-Lane plans to incorporate new technological tools into her classroom this school year. Photo courtesy of Kayla Solomon-Lane.

By Kayla Solomon-Lane and Shira Nanavati, AJA Program Manager

This summer, Austin Jewish Academy faculty has been hard at work developing a program that will continue to inspire the school’s students. From Las Vegas to Boston, members of the faculty attended professional development opportunities in the areas of project-based learning, math, technology and Hebrew instruction. 

Kayla Solomon-Lane, who teaches elementary technology, music and math, attended the Texas Computer Education Conference Elementary Technology Conference in Galveston. This conference brings hundreds of elementary educators and experts together to discover and discuss the latest technological tools, strategies and resources for elementary educators. 

Solomon-Lane explained that most of the workshops she attended involved detailed examples, lists and ideas for integrating various technological tools and resources in multiple elementary settings. She will implement the training she received in an interdisciplinary way and will share her learning related to engaging upper elementary students with technology and digitally transforming projects at AJA with her colleagues. 

Solomon-Lane will begin an early robotics program for kindergarten through second grade technology classes using Bee Bots (basic coding robots) and other coding tools. For primary technology classes, she will begin to code via unplugged games, teaching sequential logic and conditional thinking. Then her class will start programming their Bee Bots while learning about directionality, problem solving and more. 

Solomon-Lane is thrilled to begin teaching with Bee Bots.

“Bee Bots provide innumerable opportunities to collaborate with homeroom teachers. Students can program the robots to navigate mazes, spell words correctly, retell a story or math equation, classify objects for science, and more. The possibilities are endless,” she said. 

In music class, Solomon-Lane will use various applications and video tools to collaborate with technology and art. She will use several applications as stations to reinforce rhythm, composition, ear training and even connect with STEAM by learning about sound waves, music conundrums and auditory illusions. Solomon-Lane is excited to try various video resources like Sock Puppets and ChatterPix to allow students to show their learning.

Project-based learning is at the center of classrooms at AJA, and Solomon-Lane gathered a lot of new ideas about how to display and archive students' projects. 

“Because we use a shared space, I think digital curation will be key. We can use QR codes, green screens for videos or commercials, robotics, apps like SeeSaw and DoInk, in order to create portfolios of student learning for posterity," she said. 

She went on to explain how eager her colleagues are to learn about these new resources, and that she believes, “Magic happens when you strike the right harmony between technology and other, more classical pedagogical tools.” ■

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