Shelby County Schools instructors learn new technology through Merge Conference

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

ALABASTER – Teachers and administrators within the Shelby County School system got a glimpse of how technology can be used in their classrooms, while also getting hands on training, thanks to the Shelby Merge Steam Technology Conference held on Tuesday, July 30.

Hundreds of teachers and instructors from all grade levels spent the majority of the day at the Shelby County Schools Instructional Services Center to take part in the conference that featured teacher demonstrations, hands-on training, a playground with steam devices, prizes and more as the school district aims to stay ahead of the technology curve when it comes to lessons for students.

This was the first time the school system hosted a large technology conference such as Merge.

“We came up with the name Merge because it’s merging science, technology, engineering arts and math,” Shelby County Schools Technology Coordinator Lauren Woolley said. “It’s merging all of those into their curriculum and our goal today was to give teachers an opportunity to look at the equipment and help them understand how it can fit in their curriculum and make it work in their classroom. We have devices that go from very basic push button programming to actual scratch coding and then some devices that are even more advanced coding.”

Some of the devices and programs found at the conference included drones, Cue, Ozobots, BeeBots, Makey Makey, Lego WeDO, Sphero, Bolts, SAM Labs, Chromebooks, Cubelets, Probot, Little Bits, Dash & Dot, Omnicharge and more.

“This is a first to do something like this but in the past, we’ve had a group of teachers in our Stem Academy that we worked with all year and now they’re the ones presenting the workshops to the teachers,” Woolley said. “It’s teachers teaching teachers and really, I think they learn better from their peers. We made an investment in this equipment and now we want you to take it and use it.”

At the end of the conference, several door prizes were awarded for teachers who participated in several of the challenges at the Merge Conference.