Educating Innovators

Don’t walk into Teresa Coffman’s classroom and expect to see a typical lecture.

“I flip my classroom,” said Coffman. “I want my students to read and explain and think about the information. I like to hear what they have to say and how we can make it better.”

Professor Teresa Coffman uses new technologies to teach her education graduate students.

Professor Teresa Coffman uses new technologies to teach her education graduate students.

An associate professor at the University of Mary Washington’s College of Education, Coffman pioneers innovative education in the classroom to inspire future teachers.

“Technology is a tool that can create an environment that really gets students thinking effectively,” said Coffman. “It provides a vast amount of new sources and possibilities.”

Coffman’s graduate courses focus on critical and creative thinking for real-world applications.

“I want my students to think about ways that they can engage their students in new ways of thinking,” said Coffman. “You can’t just sit in front of a computer and expect learning to occur.”

She requires blogs in all her classes, where students reflect and post assignments to share their voices in an online community. Coffman’s students also post videos online for public comment, participate in virtual worlds, use online learning communities and tweet about their class work.

For Coffman, all these different practices teach students how to conduct themselves in an online environment and connect them to local teachers and school systems.

“We have explored literally dozens of new technologies over the course of the semester, and my sense of self-efficacy in incorporating technology into my teaching methods has grown by leaps and bounds,” said Brooke Melville, a master’s of education student enrolled in two of Coffman’s courses.

Teresa Coffman (right) works with a student during one of her graduate classes.

Teresa Coffman (right) works with a student during one of her graduate classes.

“When I started the course, I was intimidated by something as simple as an interactive white board,” said Melville. “Now, I blog weekly and have produced a curricular music video, developed a WebQuest with Patrick Henry as my avatar and created a Google LitTrip through Venice with a 9-year-old character as the narrator.”

Coffman and her colleagues in the College of Education are passionate about reaching outside the classroom and utilizing different methods of technology to guide students on the path of success. Last year, Coffman led the creation of TeacherSpot, an open, online teaching community. Users can access methods of best teaching from other College of Education faculty members along with free and open access to resources, teaching tools, webinars and lesson plans.

“It creates a community of practice for practicing teachers,” said Coffman.

Users of TeacherSpot range from UMW graduates to teachers from all over the state.

Coffman is also the coordinator of the EdTech Conference, an annual event now in its third year that brings together educators, education leaders and those interested in education to learn more about how technology is impacting teaching and learning.

“[The College of Education] is always searching for ways we can be more connected with the community of teachers, students and administrators to provide a strong voice for education,” said Coffman.

Coffman recently published a book that focuses on integrating technology into a classroom setting to develop critical thinkers in the 21st century.

“I try to keep active in my field because it’s important for me to know what’s happening and bring it back to my students,” said Coffman, who also gives instructional presentations several times a year and participates on advisory boards for academic journals and books.

“There is never a dull moment in Dr. Coffman’s class; her energy and enthusiasm gets every student excited about technology,” said Olivia Costello, a master’s of education student. “She not only teaches how to use new forms of technology, but also teaches how to integrate those tools into a classroom in a way that enhances student learning.”

Photos by Kimmie Barkley ’14 and story by Julia Davis ’15

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