Trombly teacher focuses on technology integration in classroom

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 8, 2011


GROSSE POINTE PARK —If it’s true that enthusiasm is contagious, Susan Howey’s fourth-grade classroom must be bursting at the seams with excitement because Howey’s passion for innovative teaching techniques is palpable.

Howey loves her job, and she wants her fourth-grade students to be as excited as she is to be in her Trombly Elementary School classroom. And that enthusiasm shows in her lessons that marry technology with math, English and science curriculum.

“If it’s fun, they don’t even know they’re learning,” Howey said.

As a teacher who feels a drive to give students 21st century tools, Howey is always on the search to introduce new technology in the classroom and ways to make learning a bit more exciting for her students with skills they can take into the future.

“She is an amazing teacher,” Superintendent Suzanne Klein said. “They do some amazing things in Mrs. Howey’s class. … We’re very proud of her.”

Howey was one of a select group of teachers throughout the nation chosen to spend time this summer at the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy — a program in which teachers learn fun new ways to instruct math and science, according to the program website.

“They foot the bill for this weeklong academy in New Jersey,” Howey said. “It’s pretty much bringing science and math alive.

“There’s definitely teachers from every state in the union,” she said of the 100 chosen teachers, adding that networking with them allows her to seek out opportunities for inter-state collaboration among students.

This isn’t the first summer Howey will attend a program to help her bring creative, new teaching tools to her classroom. She’s been heading out for camps and programs for several summers now.

“There’s so many people who don’t know it’s out there,” Howey said of these types of opportunities for teachers. “There’s some really amazing programs.”

Teachers who wanted to take part in the Mikelson ExxonMobil Academy had to apply for a spot, and Howey believes she knows what might have given her an edge over some of the other 1,200 applicants for the 100 spots.

Her students participated in the Pringles Challenge this school year, and she referred to their work in the application.

“I’d say they thought that was pretty cool,” she said.

The challenge involved students creating packaging that will allow Pringles chips to be shipped through the mail via regular postal service and make it unscathed to their destination, another school in another state.

She likes the idea of her students using Skype to communicate with other schools on projects like this one. That way, lessons that traditionally would have been confined to the four walls of a classroom move out into the world, creating more possibilities for learning.

“We’re kind of one big learning community,” Howey said.

The Pringles Challenge wasn’t the only time Howey has worked to bring technology into her lessons. The classroom uses an electronic white board in the front of the room for different lessons and uses varying software, as well.

For instance, instead of tackling a research project with books, paper and pencils, Howey’s students create reports using software that allows them to include pictures, videos and text in different links in their virtual projects.

“We actually inserted our own Flip videos,” she said of a recent assignment. “They were so excited to do this versus me saying, tell me about your book.

“Technology, I think, overall, I think it’s more engaging,” she said. “It’s more impactful.”

She introduced the students to something called Prezi, a presentation program that she believes is much more interactive than PowerPoint.

“The kids are more engaged,” she said of integrating technology and education.

“The enthusiasm is through the roof,” Howey said. “I’m enjoying it, and they feed off your enthusiasm.”

Learning in Howey’s classroom isn’t a one-person endeavor; it’s collaborative, team building in nature and more like the work people do in the real world. It’s also using technology that’s available.

“That’s how our society operates,” Howey said. “The more we can mirror that in the classroom, we’re just more relevant.”

She wants to encourage more teachers to train in new and growing technology.

“It is a little bit of a shift in your thinking,” Howey said. “When you see the tools, and you see how impactful they are … it just sells itself.

“We’ve got to give them the tools,” she said. “It’s not going away. We don’t want to be left behind.”