At Atlanta International School, Lenny Dutton serves as Digital Innovation Coach. She teaches other teachers about technology they can use in their classrooms. She started teaching in 2009, she says, but began working in schools in 2005 as a volunteer, including helping with an educational vegetable garden at a primary school in London.
One teaching device she’s promoted is the use of “Breakout EDU,” which she says was inspired by escape room games, in which people solve puzzles in order to break out of locked rooms. Kits for the classroom are available through the BreakoutEDU.com website, she says.
She describes the classroom program this way: “Students arrive to class to find a large box, or two, with lots of different types of padlocks on them. There may also be clues and props hidden around the room. Students have to use teamwork, problem solving and communication skills, along with subject knowledge to solve cryptic clues to break into the box. …
“We’ve played games covering everything from general math skills to Shakespeare. The games are created by teachers across the world and uploaded for others to use. I’ve created several including one about owls and another about the digestive system. … We also have started to get students to make their own games!”
Q: What attracted you to teaching at first?
A: My degree was based on museum studies. I originally wanted to work in an education role in a museum, but needed teaching experience first. I spent my time as a student volunteering in a museums archives which also gave me experience suitable to being a librarian. My career started off as a school librarian and I fell in love with working in the classroom.
Q: Has the appeal changed?
A: Originally teaching seemed a route into working in another educational role, but I fell in love with working with teaching. Every day is different and I am in an environment where I am constantly challenged and learning.
Q: What keeps you going year after year?
A: I get excited to collaborate with other teachers. Working with technology means that my job changes constantly. I’m excited to bring new tools to the classroom that help light up the classroom. I also get involved with clubs which I enjoy a lot. I’ve had experience with everything from debate club to coding clubs.
Q: What do you think makes a great teacher?
A: I think I am multifaceted, so am able to bring resources to teachers of all subjects. Although my job involves using technology, I also use a lot of my knowledge of global issues, alongside debate skills, to engage my students.
Q: What do you want to see in your students?
A: I want to see my students develop strong approaches to learning. I want them to be good communicators and problem-solvers. I want them to want to learn — and I want to learn with them!
Q: How do you engage your students?
A: I use lots of different teaching methods, so that students don’t get bored in class. I also involve them with making decisions that impact them. What do they want to learn? How do they want to learn? Last year I taught an ICT/Robotics class, and for the last project, as a class we devised a point system, where all students had to achieve 50 experience points, but they had many different ways to doing that. This gave them lots of choice, but also a good amount of support and guidance.
Q: Do you have a project or special program you use year after year?
A: One technique that I love to use is “stand your ground.” We will put a statement on the board, and students stand if they agree and sit if they disagree. This is a really simple way to start discussions, and has every student participate. I’ve done this sometimes with only a handful of statements and it has turned into a debate that lasts the whole lesson.
Q: Is there a “trick” that works to get students involved?
A: Listen to them.
Q: What do you hope your students take away from your class?
A: I hope that students feel their opinions and ideas are valued, and I hope that they will want to pursue skills or knowledge about things started in class.