Katharine Dale believes technology is a gateway to student engagement, creativity, choice and success. That’s why this Northborough fifth grade teacher strives to go beyond using technology as a replacement for lessons, to truly integrate it into instruction.
“When we integrate technology well, we not only get that engagement from students, but those critical thinking skills and those higher level skills,” says Dale. “Those skills are available to students if we work backwards in our curriculum development to know where we need to go and how we can get our students there.”
With all of the expectations placed on educators these days, Dale says teachers need to use technology to balance and integrate everything they are required to do in the classroom. She says it’s easy to incorporate technology when you start by focusing on relationships with students.
“In my classroom, it all starts with relationships and the importance of getting to know my students,” Dale says. “If you have those relationships, then you can take a lot of risks as an educator and those are worth taking because there are a lot of benefits on the other side.”
Dale is a natural innovator who strives to create engaging, hands-on experiences for her students. Last year, when she was teaching at the fourth grade level, she designed a Macy’s Day Parade project, in which students learned to scale up maps of the route, then coded Dash robots to follow it in their classroom. Second graders worked with her students to learn the basics of the robots, make parade costumes and build the structures that lined the route. In another project, Dale transformed her classroom into a map of Northborough and students programmed the robots to go “dashing through Northborough” during the holiday season, solving multiplication and division word problems along the way.
“I love creating and designing units that are engaging for my students, but also meet the standards,” Dale says. “This project was a way to get into the holiday spirit, but also to tackle the math and technology standards, as well as teamwork and communication.”
An English major in college, she says she never really thought of herself as an expert in coding or STEM. She says it felt like a bit of a risk when she first began to design units incorporating those elements, but she saw it as a way to keep learning.
“There’s so much room to grow and you get to grow with the best learners,” Dale says. “The students are the experts on learning and taking those risks as a teacher has really proven to be one of the most powerful things I’ve done.”
Before moving to Northborough, Dale was a fourth grade teacher in Littleton, where she designed a project in which students researched explorers from history and coded robots to follow their routes. She presented on Route to Root: Coding Explorer Journeys with Robots at the 2022 MassCUE Fall Conference. She says technology is a great way to drive engagement with shorter lessons as well. Using Microsoft Excel, she incorporates pixel art into a lesson on multiplying decimals, which she offers as part of a choice board for students the following week. Another favorite lesson had students create their own quizzes in Scratch. After they learned the basics of creating the quiz, the students went a step further to create self-correcting quizzes.
“They’re always just blowing me away with the things that they do,” Dale says. “These projects show me the potential my students have and how what I have for them is just a step toward where they’re going. They always take us a little bit further than we thought possible.”
Dale says teachers who show they don’t have all the answers are modeling learning for students and showing them it’s okay to take risks. She says she loves connecting with like-minded educators for inspiration on Twitter and through MassCUE.
“At the end of the day, I’m here for the kids. Not just my kids, but THE kids,” Dale says. “I’m thankful for having a community of educators who want to share what they are doing in the classroom. We go further together.”
Katharine Dale is a fifth grade teacher at Lincoln Street Elementary school in Northborough, MA. This is her second year in Northborough, and prior to this she spent nine years as a fourth grade teacher in Littleton, MA. Katharine loves to provide her students with well-constructed units that not only align to grade level standards, but engage students in higher-level thinking skills like problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and opportunities to synthesize learned knowledge. Some of her favorite projects include green screens, Makey Makey, Dash Robots, and 3D printing.
Throughout her journey as an educator Katharine has strived to make a positive impact on the students she works with by putting a precedence on classroom community. Katharine enjoys taking the time to build relationships and cultivate a community of learners that are not afraid to take risks, embrace each other’s differences, and cheer each other on with each other’s successes.
Katharine has presented at MassCUE several times and feels grateful to continue her learning alongside so many talented educators. Her presentations over the years include “This Book Club is Lit,” “Route to Root: Coding Explorer Journeys with Robots,” and “Creative Coding to Provide Student Voice to the Elementary Curriculum.” Katharine is so excited to be serving in the district she grew up in and feels blessed to be able to give back to a community that has given her so much as a child. She looks forward to the learning and growth ahead and is thankful for all the educators who have inspired her along the way.Print this post