Helping students find ‘awesomeness’

BLAIRSBURG – While former Northeast Hamilton Social Studies teacher Leslie Pralle Keehn hesitated about leaving the classroom, her new position with the Prairie Lakes AEA has combined her two professional passions – teaching and technology.

Pralle Keehn is now a technology integration consultant for the Prairie Lakes AEA and is tasked with serving 14 school districts of the PLAEA’s 44 districts.

As a technology integration consultant, Pralle Keehn’s function is to help teachers and districts integrate technology into classroom applications in powerful ways which are designed to have a positive impact on student achievement.

“We work with kids and for kids,” said Pralle Keehn, who simply stated her goal is also part of her job description, “To find student awesomeness.”

As a teacher, Pralle Keehn embraced the iPad roll-out at Northeast Hamilton High School when it took place at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.

With the availability of the new technology in her classroom, she introduced her sophomore students to the Bill and Melinda Gates Big History Project that incorporated learning from around the world. Teachers from high school to university levels submitted curriculum about human history dating back from 13.7 billion years ago to the present day. An integral part of the program used technology access and networking with others around

the globe.

As for her credentials, only in her fourth year of teaching, Pralle Keehn was named the 2012 Teacher of the Year for the Iowa Council for the Social Studies. In the summer of 2012, she served a fellowship at C-SPAN in Washington, DC where she explored technology and communications.

So Pralle Keehn admits she gave considerable thought about leaving the classroom when the opportunity at PLAEA presented itself. Her new job allows her the ability to explore and develop technology for use in the classroom while giving she and her husband Jermony the flexibility they need to raise their three young children: Rylee, 7; Aaden, 5 and Easton, 7 months.

“The flexibility of this job is great for my family,” said Pralle Keehn who travels through the 14 district area to visit some of the 44 public and 14 private schools serviced by the Prairie Lakes AEA. The ease and benefit of technology allows her to work from any location, even her kitchen table.

Professionally, while Pralle Keehn misses the classroom, she is inspired by her current job.

“I miss the kids terribly,” admitted Pralle Keehn of leaving the classroom. “But I am learning new things to benefit students in the classroom.”

Currently, Pralle Keehn is working with NEH second grade teacher Laura Seiser on “Choose Your Own Adventure Story.” The project is taking elementary school students from the days when books were made from pages of a Big Chief tablet, bound together with a string of yarn to the new age of electronic books. Facilitation of the project was made possible due to the availability of iPads for all NEH students in grades K-12 at the beginning of this school year.

In the project, students will write and edit their own story, develop a story board and create their own illustrations using the creation app on their iPads, explained Pralle Keehn.

Once the creative process is done, the students will capture their artwork and their story with screen shots. Those still shots will then be transferred to the computer and through the application of Google Presentation, they will be hyperlinked for viewing on the students’ iPads, explained Pralle Keehn.

Teacher Laura Seiser was enthused about incorporating the technology into her classroom.

“I saw a session on this at the ITEC (Iowa Technology and Education Connection),” said Seiser, who thought the project would work well in her classroom.

Beyond facilitating classroom projects, Pralle Keehn is looking forward to the statewide Maker’s Showcase on May 3 in Boone in collaboration with the United Community School District. “It will serve as a showcase of students’ interactive exhibits from across the state,” said Pralle Keehn.

In the first months of her new assignment, Pralle Keehn has embraced the challenge.

“It is a different world – outside of teaching in the classroom,” she said. “But as I left the secondary classroom, I became dedicated to primary grade students who have a voice and have stories to tell. I feel I can help guide those students through the use and power of social media and to teach them that they are valued.”

Besides teaching students the mechanics of technology, Pralle Keehn is committed to instilling within them the responsibilities associated with these new tools.

Often, publicity is given to the negative use of technology through social media rather than the powerful things which can be created by it, said Pralle Keehn.

“I want to focus on the positive use of these tools,” she said.