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MERIT 2017 Challenges Teachers to Promote Student Creativity

September 13, 2017

MERIT students creating binary tree using marshmellows

On July 5th, 44 teachers from across the Bay Area gathered at the KCI to begin the two-week, intensive MERIT Summer Institute. Over one hundred educators applied for the program, and less than 50% were selected, since MERIT is donor-supported with limited seats. These teachers have made a 10-month commitment to transform their teaching practice and to enhance learning environments for students. During these 10 months they will be challenged to try new technologies and student-centered pedagogical practices.

This year, under the guidance of new MERIT program director, Lisa DeLapo, teachers were challenged to discover their own creativity with the ultimate goal of helping students find their creativity. The theme of the program is student-centric: What Will Your Students Create? Teachers experimented with a number of technologies and applications, including Hyperdocs, Flipgrid, and iMovie. If teachers gain confidence in using technology, they are more likely to be comfortable with students using technology. Building teacher confidence is one of the desired outcomes of MERIT, and over 95% of this year’s cohort agreed that they could teach relevant subject matter with appropriate use of instructional technology after completing the first two weeks.

During the Summer Institute, teachers are expected to revise existing lesson plans and projects or create new ones to deploy in the upcoming school year. By the end of the Summer Institute, teachers had to present a “TPaCK Project” that combined the right tools, pedagogical delivery, and content knowledge. One participant commented, “As a teacher-creator, MERIT gave me a great number of tools that I can use to make my presentations and products more professional. I was introduced to valuable assessment and creation tools—such as Screencastify, Green Screen, and storytelling with Google Slides—that are relevant to the creative work my students are interested in.”

Also new for this year, teachers received the training required to pass the Google Educator Level 1 and 2 Certifications. Over 80% of districts in California are adopting the Google Suite for Education. Level 1 certification recognizes educators who have learned the fundamentals of Google tools and validates standard technology implementation skills. Level 2 certification is awarded to teachers who are “super users” and enthusiasts for Google tools, demonstrating advanced technology integration skills.

To sum up the experience of many, one participant wrote, “On July 5th, driving to MERIT and stuck in a traffic jam, I thought, ‘Why am I doing this on my time off?’ That thought immediately disappeared when we started class. I’ve come home each day super excited to continue creating and to share with my family what we are learning. This has been a truly fabulous experience!”

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