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Spotlight on: Alison Vaccarino, Technology Integration at CLS

After earning her undergraduate degree in photography from Bard College, Technology Integration specialist Allison Vaccarino travelled extensively, living all over the world. She returned to the Rhinebeck area, and attended SUNY New Paltz, where she earned her MST. She is also a graduate of Rhinebeck High School!

Alison Vaccarino

How did you get interested in technology?
Technology is everywhere and it is very exciting and always changing! I am very interested in how technology fits into our lives. Technology is more than just the devices themselves; it is how we use them and why.

Describe technology integration at CLS, your role in it and where you see it going. 
Here at CLS, we are moving right along. The primary focus for me as the integrator is to help teachers infuse technology into their pedagogy, to help them see how technology can make teaching and learning more engaging and authentic. I am also working on our first integrated technology curriculum.

You are involved in the STEM Fair, tell us about that. And, busy person that you are, you are also involved with the Lego Robotics Club–tell us what’s going on there, too.
I started the first STEM Fair here at CLS a few years ago with David Woulfin. We invite students from grades 3, 4 and 5 to participate and they come up with some great science, technology, engineering and math projects. Our 5th Graders are also eligible to compete in the Dutchess County Science Fair. Currently, I am doing an Early Morning STEM program and an after school Robotics and Coding Club with some other teachers. One of my favorite programs was an Early Morning Mini Maker Club. Students got time for self directed discovery and creation. I have done versions of this at RSF Discovery Festivals, too: toy deconstruction/reconstruction, cardboard construction, etc.

Are there any other technology projects you have going right now or any you are planning?
In December the PE teachers, Mr. Edson and Mr. Yarnell, and I have come up with an interesting way to participate in the Hour of Code. We will be collaborating with another elementary school (Lafayette-Manlius) via Google Hangouts. The students from one school will give live directions (code) to students in the other school to complete challenges. So they are programming people! In the Spring, I am hoping to work with art teacher Mrs. Johnson making art with electrically conductive materials.

Do you see all of these varied science and technology related things you are doing in a big picture? If so, what sorts of goals, wishes or dreams do you have for the future of science and technology education.
Yes! I have a Constructivist approach in general – all of this technology allows people to create their own learning and to come at learning and understanding from different angles. My hope for the future of science and technology education is that it becomes more student-centered with teachers in a facilitating role. We have incredible access to information and we need to know how to use and evaluate it. Teachers can help students become creators and not just consumers.

Has your approach to teaching technology changed since you started and if so, how and why?
I have more and more faith in the ability of the students – they were born using technology and they are very comfortable with it. I try to get out of the way and let them learn.

What kinds of things do you read for fun?
I read everything and all the time! Right now I really like British and Scandinavian detective stories.

What do you do when you aren’t working to get new technology going at the schools?
I am at the school less than half time so I have a second job selling real estate. I love spending time with my kids and being outside in our beautiful Hudson Valley. Oh, and metal detecting!

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