CCA Teacher Guides Students and Staff Through Pandemic Tech Pivot

By: Samy Rodriguez
Due to COVID-19, the use of technology in the classroom has rapidly accelerated — a change that proved to be a struggle for some students. Thankfully, CCA’s Elementary Technology Teacher and Tech Coach, Mrs. Laura Morris, has developed a fun new way for 3rd-5th grade students to grow in their typing skills and thrive as 21st century learners! Having faithfully worked at CCA for 15 years, she has equipped both students and staff through her heart for teaching.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” —1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

As tech natives, this generation of children was born into a world where technology is a way of life. While they probably know how to work a smartphone better than you and navigate the latest features and apps, surprisingly, essential keyboarding skills are still a struggle for most students. This skill gap especially proved to be an academic barrier when COVID-19 forced them in front of a computer to continue their schooling (Santora, 2020). The pandemic also required educators to quickly pivot and learn how to operate new technology and programs in order to keep their virtual classrooms up and running.

Thanks to technology professionals like Mrs. Laura Morris, however, CCA students and staff have been able to receive the 21st century instruction needed to thrive academically and professionally in this day and age.

A Passion that Empowers

Mrs. Morris began working at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s IT Department in 2004 by assisting in data entry before she transitioned into the role of Elementary Technology Teacher at Calvary Christian Academy in 2006. In 2014, she also earned the title of Tech Coach, which allows her to assist students and staff with navigating new digital applications.

This past year, she played a crucial role empowering teachers with the necessary skills to confidently transition into distance and hybrid learning and learn how to operate new equipment, including the high-definition cameras that were installed in each classroom.

As a CCA graduate, I have personally witnessed the joy and fervor that Mrs. Morris exudes. It is so evident that she loves the Lord, her job, and the CCA community. My mother, Mrs. Laura Rodriguez, has also witnessed this as her colleague.
Mrs. Morris has been such a great help to us this year with all the new technology in our classrooms.
“Mrs. Morris has been such a great help to us this year with all the new technology in our classrooms. She’s always willing to go above and beyond to help us whenever we need her. She takes her time to show us how things are done,” said Mrs. Rodriguez, fourth grade teacher at CCA.

COVID-19’s impact on education also revealed that CCA’s upper elementary grades could use extra support with their typing skills in order to keep up with online learning. This inspired Mrs. Morris to create a new, competition-based program called Key Bee, which gives 3rd through 5th grade students at CCA the opportunity to practice their typing skills while having a fun time.

“I’ve been in classes and after school tech activities with Mrs. Morris since 1st or 2nd grade. I like taking her classes because they are fun, and I feel like she really cares about us! What I like most about Key Bee is that it’s a competition with other 5th graders. Mrs. Morris inspires us to be creative, makes us laugh, and has been an amazing teacher to me all these years!,” said Janai Lopez, a fifth grade student at CCA.

While interviewing Mrs. Morris and listening to her story, I saw the light in her eyes and heard the passion in her voice as she spoke not only of technology, but of how she loves empowering both students and staff to use it in glorifying ways.

How did you come to serve as CCA’s Elementary Technology Teacher and Tech Coach?

Before working at Calvary, I worked in the business management industry for 20 years. I wanted to teach adults how to use technology, so I got my masters in Instructional Technology from the New York Institute of Technology. When I moved to South Florida in 1997 and became pregnant with my son, Brendan, God shifted everything. I first began volunteering with the church, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, inputting data until I was hired to do the job. I worked for a year and a half as I prayed about what God would want me to do next. I really wanted a job that would give me off days to spend with my family while also allowing me to continue training others, so I was overjoyed when God opened the door for me to work at CCA as the Elementary Technology Teacher in 2006!
This role has allowed me to continue doing what I love to do: help other people learn more about technology and how they can use it to honor God.
I love my position because I view teaching as a form of coaching where I get to train my students to use technology well. It is not just for games; it is a tool that can be used in so many other ways to help other people and make a difference in the world! I also am certified by the International Society for Technology in Education and am currently working on my Google Coaching Certification, which helps me in my role as a Tech Coach. I became a Tech Coach and started working alongside Rick Geyer in CCA’s IT Department four years ago. This role has allowed me to continue doing what I love to do: help other people learn more about technology and how they can use it to honor God.

How did you come up with the Key Bee and how does it work?

 
When COVID-19 led to everyone doing distance learning, Rick Geyer, CCA’s director of instructional technology, challenged me to come up with something that the kids could do still in order to practice typing, so I did some research and came up with a Key Bee. I created a website that connects the students to the typing website, gives them the competition instructions, and highlights the monthly winners.

Students go on the website, Typing Agent, to practice their typing skills; the site logs their minutes into their personal profile. At the end of every month, I award an individual student from each grade level that has typed the most minutes and give them a ribbon. I also look to see what class in each grade gets the most typing minutes overall to award them with a collective prize. The class that wins receives my homemade brownies, and I also watch them during their lunchtime, which rewards their teacher with a break. This month, for the final contest of the year, the students with the highest “Adjusted Words Per Minute” rates from each grade in addition to the class with the most minutes on Typing Agent will receive a trophy.

How has Key Bee impacted the students this year, and why is it an important skill for students to practice early on?

 
The students do not receive a grade for Key Bee, but they do get to have fun and engage in some healthy competition while practicing their typing skills. They really do enjoy it since there has been 95% participation from all students, and one student even spent 525 minutes on Typing Agent in a month! Not only is it enjoyable for students, but it truly prepares them for Middle and High School where they will have their own Chromebook for all their classes and receive grades for typing in their technology classes.
it truly prepares them for Middle and High School where they will have their own Chromebook for all their classes
Typing is also important because everything in the world is technology. Especially as students continue moving forward in their education, they will need to type in order to take notes, take tests, write essays, and perform other tasks. Just like they continue learning and practicing how to write, they will need to continue learning and practicing how to type and use technology, because without it, they will likely have trouble communicating. My hope for the future of Key Bee is that it can start with 2nd grade, incorporate new rewards, and continue to motivate the students to grow in their typing knowledge and ability!

What does your day typically look like as the Tech Teacher and Coach?

 
I get to greet and interact with the students every morning before they start their day since I work morning duty for 1st through 5th grade! I also teach technology for kindergarten through 2nd grade, but for most of my day, I make myself available to teachers for technological help. I work with IT and the Secondary School Tech Team to make instructional videos for our staff and students about how to use different computer applications. Some of these include MyCCA, FlipGrid, NoodleTools, Book Creator, Gimkit and all the Google Suite Apps. As a Tech Coach, I am always looking for ways to help the teachers incorporate impactful technology throughout the classroom!
I am always looking for ways to help the teachers incorporate impactful technology throughout the classroom!
After school on Mondays and Thursdays from 3:15 to 4:30 PM, I run a program called Tech Art for CCA students through ACE (After Care Enrichment). This is a place where students who really love technology and who are uniquely gifted in it can come to embrace their creativity. We work with 3D printers and coding, and also look at how they can build and program their own computer. It really brings them to the next level digitally.

Why do you do what you do?

I really just love to help people use tech as a tool. My passion is that we can use technology in an effective and impactful way instead of just in a playful way. Technology gives us many avenues to communicate learning in a creative and fun manner. When people learn to use technology as a tool, they will be able to learn how to communicate better and teach others what they have learned too!

 

I hope that Mrs. Morris’s devotion to helping others through technology has inspired you to use technology as an edifying, God-honoring tool in your everyday life. Mrs. Morris is a great example of what it means to be “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." May we also be faithful stewards of God’s grace in our own lives, serving others with the unique gifts he has given each of us.

CCA parents interested in registering their 3rd-6th grade student in Mrs. Morris’ after school Tech Art program can register on Popsicle. She is offering two sessions this month in the Lower School Media Center, each for a nominal fee of $39:

  • May 6-27 (Meets each Thursday)
  • May 10-24 (Meets each Monday)

This summer from June 7-11, Mrs. Morris is also hosting a Tech Art & Programming Summer STEM Camp at CCA for rising 3rd-6th grade students. Campers will learn about different types of tech and how they are used every day. They will be able to experiment with green screens, 3D pens, printers, and more! To register, click here.

 
Samantha Rodriguez is a CCA alumnus from the Class of 2020. She now attends Palm Beach Atlantic University where she is studying Communications alongside Biblical and Intercultural Studies. She hopes to one day work in ministry using her gifts and passions for speaking, writing, and discipling, which were first ignited and grown in her time at CCA.
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