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Educators Learning to Map Out the Future at MTI

Friday, June 9, 2017

by Sara Bertsch for the Mitchell Daily Republic, Thursday, June 8, 2017

For Erika Kruggel, a high school visual arts teacher, it is hard to get out of her comfort zone in education.

But that all changed this week as she attended a professional development training at Mitchell Technical Institute learning about Geospatial Technologies (GST). The four-day training, which began Monday, helped teachers of all subjects learn about integrating geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) curriculum into their classrooms — including art.

“We want to look for career opportunities for our students that are not just painting or drawing,” Kruggel said of art teachers.

With this training, Kruggel, who teaches at Harrisburg High School, can better prepare her students for their future, including their postsecondary education and careers. One area she might incorporate GST into her art classroom is through photography, allowing her students to map out areas to capture images.

And that’s the idea of the training, to develop well-rounded students. To do this, the educators participated in various hands-on activities, including flying drones. On Wednesday the group of 20 educators traveled to MTI’s land lab, where they flew drones. Later that day, they also drove tractors equipped with auto steering technology.

This week is the first of four training sessions scheduled for summers 2017 and 2018, according to Devon Russell, who is an MTI instructor and leading the summer training.

And it’s all free, Russell said, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant program, called Advanced Technological Education, awarded Mitchell Tech with $200,00 to fund the workshop.

MTI applied for the grant program in 2014, but wasn’t awarded the money until early 2016. The next year was spent planning, before implementation of the program this summer.

While some hands-on training took place Wednesday, Monday and Tuesday’s activities included GIS and GPS fundamentals, along with mapping data, according to Russell.

Thursday, the final day of the session, will include reviewing the data collected from the drones, along with a guest speaker.

At the end of the training, educators are provided a take-home kit with curriculum meeting K-12 content standards and a free tablet with downloaded GPS software. The kit also contains a binder with various activities and other GPS activity tools.

There hasn’t been a professional development training like this at Mitchell Tech, but Russell said this week has gone well.

“This is the first of this type,” Russell said. “We’re just looking to get students interested and so they have an idea what GPS and GIS is and that it is a career field available for them.”

While the training is for career and technical educators (CTE) and high school teachers, a good majority of this week’s group included agriculture instructors.

Of these agriculture teachers is Tracey Walsh, who works with 7-12 students at Kimball High School. And she can’t wait to bring back what she’s learned into her classroom.

For Walsh and several other instructors in attendance, a good majority of their students choose to attend a South Dakota technical institute after graduating. And the workshop allowed them, as educators, to ask Russell and his team for the best practices and basics they should be teaching.

“They’ve really showed us ways to teach those basics, how to incorporate and how to take it another step forward,” Walsh said.

And Amanda Hoover agrees. Hoover teaches 7-12 agriculture education in Lake Preston, and she plans to use the mapping technology and data analysis in her classroom for students interested in precision agriculture.

Joining Hoover from Lake Preston is two other teachers, in science and geography. And Hoover said this training taught each of them, being in different areas, how to incorporate the same technology in their various classrooms.

“I’m glad MTI is reaching out to do teacher education and the National Science Foundation is putting money up for things like this — especially in an area like ag,” Hoover said. “There’s no way for us to know everything, so stuff like this in the summer is really important.”

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