TOMS RIVER – Toms River Regional School District was represented by staff at the 2018 Techspo Conference held at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City back in January.
This conference is the educational technology conference in NJ, where teachers, administrators, technicians, and industry representatives come to participate in various sessions that cover numerous topics, anywhere from teaching to cybersecurity.
The Toms River Regional staff presented three workshops at this year’s two-day Techspo, including a hands-on session using maker techniques, a panel on using technology to improve learning, and a presentation on creating flexible spaces that foster student voice and choice.
For the past three years, staff from Toms River schools has participated in more than 100 workshops in NJ and other states. These workshops are based on teaching initiatives that are inspired by the maker movement, which focuses on problem-based learning, as opposed to project-based learning.
Techspo is organized by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA), and over the years, the conference has evolved from somewhat of a high-tech trade show to the complex, and educational conference that it is today.
The conference was led by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Marc Natanagara, a former science teacher and supervisor.
“To be prepared for tomorrow’s careers, and even just to live happily and productively in an increasingly complex world, students need to become not just problem solvers but problem identifiers,” said Natanagara. “That’s where our curriculum differs from most – teachers don’t just hand students artificial tasks, but present them with real world issues that they assess, investigate, and propose solutions for.”
Superintendent Dave Healy and the Toms River Reginal Board of Education encourage and promote this type of professional and out-of-the-box learning, supporting various programs, including pilots, new partnerships, and grant funded opportunities in the district.
“In just the past year, the H. Hovnanian Foundation has committed over a quarter million dollars to our new high school career academies,” said Healy. “RWJBarnabas Health signed an agreement to provide more than $600,000 over five years in a sponsorship package that includes resources for our health and wellness programs. These organizations see our dedication to students and the bright future of our schools.”
According to District Technology Director Jay Attiya, who presented a session at Techspo, the district has recently added 7,000 Chromebooks over the last three years, expanded the wireless network and increase the internet bandwidth to help transform the way teachers teach and students learn.
Toms River Regional’s training opportunities help to expose the district to new ideas from sources outside their campuses. The district runs the Jersey Shore Makerfest each October, the largest free event of its kind in the state, largely to build networks of innovators who all have the same mission: to help the next generation of children become tomorrow’s leaders.