‘Tech nerd’ hits the road

Kari Wardle, a technology fanatic and self-described “tech nerd,” is taking her skills on the road to teach Idaho teachers how to use technology.

Wardle is traveling the state to educate rural school teachers about digital media and how to use technology in the classroom. She leads training and shares her passion for computers and technology with students and educators as a teacher ambassador for Idaho Public Television.

“This is a dream,” Wardle said.

Janine Garret, a kindergarten teacher at Emmett’s Shadow Butte Elementary, had an eye-opening experience when Wardle visited her classroom to teach students how to code in December. The kids programed PBS characters to move, jump, dance and sing. In the process, students learned to solve problems, design projects and express creativity.

“She expressed how important mindset is when you’re doing something new and complex while working with  five-year-old brains,” Garret said.

Wardle is sharing technology tools with rural teachers from Buhl, Emmett, Gooding, Marsing and Wendell. Her goal is to increase awareness about free resources available to teachers throughout the state from both PBS and Idaho Public Television. She reached 1,200 educators and 1,100 students in 2017 and plans to travel to North and East Idaho teachers this year.

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Free resources include:

  • Free online lesson plans.
  • A free coding app for kids.
  • A social, emotional, and character development curriculum for teachers.
  • Hands-on teacher training courses.

“I’m not a sales person, I’m a teacher,” she said. “I want teachers to know what is out there for them and how they can use these tools in the classroom.”

The training is part of a PBS pilot project, the Teacher Community Program, launched last year. It operates in five states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, North Dakota and Iowa. A full-time certified teacher for each state is working as an ambassador.

Wardle has worked in education for 13 years and was previously a fifth-grade teacher at White Pine Elementary School in Burley for eight years. She served on the Cassia County School District technology team and implemented technology throughout her school and district.

“Idaho isn’t connected to the Internet like other states and we are behind in technology in schools,” she said. “We need to make a change and I feel I’m making a difference.”

For Garrett, Wardle wasn’t just teaching a coding class, but was a mentor who is connecting teachers through her own experiences. Garrett is now using coding on a regular basis as part of her teaching curriculum.

“I never thought I would be doing coding in my classroom, it was something I thought was challenging,” Garrett said. “The visit was very positive.”

You can check out free PBS learning media here. If you’re an educator and would like Kari Wardle to come to your classroom connect with her at [email protected].

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