A newsmaker you should know: Teacher's book teaches teachers to use technology

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When Sara Kajder, a middle school English instructor at Shady Side Academy, started teaching in 1996, technology was just beginning to move into the classroom.

"I was one of the first round of teachers to use technology -- we were just starting to utilize the Internet, for example," she said.

Intrigued by the use of technology as a tool for teaching, she began incorporating various technological tools with her own students.

"I realized other teachers may want to better utilize technology, but may not know how," she said.

Mrs. Kajder, of Forest Hills, decided she would focus her doctoral research on that very topic, how teachers are using the new technology.

"It was emerging faster than we could be trained, so I was interested in how others were not only using technology, but how they were learning themselves," she said, "Basically, the teachers were learning with their students."

Mrs. Kajder received her Ph.D. in curriculum instruction from the University of Virginia. She has taught middle and high school and at Virginia Tech.

It was her own learning and her work with others that served as the background for her book, "Adolescents and Digital Literacies: Learning Alongside Our Students," (National Council of Teachers of English: 2010).

It was the book that led to her being chosen the winner of the James N. Britton Award sponsored by the Conference on English Education of the National Council of Teachers of English. Mrs. Kajder gave a presentation Friday at the group's national conference in Las Vegas.

"The book is about the teaching practices that technology allows. Our students are learning technology so fast and using it to read and write outside of the classroom -- there has been a foundational shift on how we read, write and research," she said.

Her book is based on three years of research and talking with teachers from 12 states, Mrs. Kajder said.

"This is a compilation of those stories and is meant to be a tool for English teachers who have various comfort levels in utilizing technology," she said.

While the primary audience of the book is teachers, parents can benefit from reading it as well, she said. "Students are using technology outside of the classroom and parents can learn with them too," she said.

Mrs. Kajder, who grew up in Trafford, accepted a teaching position in August at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel, where she teaches eighth-grade English.

"My husband and I have dated since we were 15. We knew we wanted to be back closer to family, so this was a wonderful opportunity," she said. Mrs. Kajder and her husband, Michael, have two sons, Matthew, 8, and Brennan, 5.

Mrs. Kajder thinks the current state of technology provides limitless opportunities for teachers and students.

"We all need to be lifelong learners. We have not traditionally thought of teaching this way, but we have to acknowledge what our kids are using and learn with them, to be co-learners," she said.

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Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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