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Texas’ Lamar University, Microsoft Partner to Help Teachers Get Comfortable with Tech

The $300 course, titled Teaching with Technology, teaches educators how to use Microsoft programs in the classroom while emphasizing collaboration.

(TNS) — Todd Flory takes his fourth-grade class on trips to the U.S. Capitol and hosts talks with NASA officials.

But the kids never leave the classroom.

From Flory's classroom at Wheatland Elementary School in Andover, Kansas, his students get to virtually travel, in real-time, learning about anything from indigenous animals to outer space.

Flory's interactive classroom is what Microsoft had in mind when its education team partnered with Lamar University earlier this year for an online course for teachers.

The $300 course, titled Teaching with Technology, includes four lessons and lasts about three hours. Students can take an exam after, show the results to Lamar University and earn three credit hours.

The coursework teaches educators how to use Microsoft programs in the classroom.

The program emphasizes collaboration and helps teachers become more comfortable with technology, which could help with student engagement, said Eve Psalti,Microsoft's global director for education audience.

Teachers from around the world can take the course online.

An additional three credit hours are available through a portfolio review course, during which educators can showcase what they've learned and earn a digital educator certificate.

So far, about 60 are interested in getting certified through Lamar, according to the university.

Flory will begin his fifth year as a teacher this fall.

He's made some pretty significant changes to his teaching style in those few short years.

In his first year, he let his students use the classroom computers, but he said it was mostly for "basic technology."

Now the kids get to chat with other classrooms through Skype. They even make presentations for those classes and everyone has a job. Some students might ask questions, others might record the answers.

"Students learn best when they have an emotional connection with their learning," Flory said.

That doesn't mean they never open a book. Flory still follows an approved curriculum.

His students read first then get up and discuss what they learned, he said. There's movement involved. It's not sleepy-eyed kids sitting at a desk, he said.

©2015 the Beaumont Enterprise (Beaumont, Texas), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.