CEDAR RAPIDS — Matthew Mena-Landry had examples of nearly every kind of device that supports reading e-books on his table in the main hall Tuesday at the Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids.
Mena-Landry, a technology consultant for the agency, wanted to demonstrate both to his fellow employees and members of the public how teachers and students could publish their work as e-books that could be read on Kindles, Nooks, iPads and a variety of other devices.
“If a student is a writer, why not have them publish a book instead of a project?” he asked.
His project was one of about a dozen initiatives showcased at the second annual Innovation Day. Many of the displays focused on the role technology can play in the agency’s mission of supporting local school districts.
Julie Freed, the agency’s speech-language pathologist, demonstrated a range of new remote-controlled toys purchased by the agency that allow young students with physical disabilities to play with their peers.
She showed off a toy car and several stuffed animals that could be manipulated remotely through an iPad app. Student lacking the ability or strength to use their hands to play with a toy might still be able to touch and manipulate an iPad screen.
“The AEA got more than 250 iPads for employees this year, so we’ve been asking, ‘How can we use these to help kids with disabilities?’” she said.
The devices are available for area districts to check out and use with their students.
Another common theme for the Innovation Day projects was improving services for some of the agency’s more rural districts. The Grant Wood AEA supports 32 public school districts across seven counties.
Jessica Roman, a preschool specialist at the agency, is working on a project to create coaching videos to help teachers of young students manage behavior problems.
It can be difficult for a coach or mentor to demonstrate a technique in an actual classroom setting, she said, so the videos would give learning teachers a chance to fully understand how to implement a particular strategy.
“When we model things in the classroom, there’s a lot going on,” she said. “With the videos we can fully demonstrate a concrete example.”