As head of the Technology Committee, Ms. Erica (E1 Head Teacher/Middle School Grade Level Head) has been busy bringing technology into the classrooms of Foothills Montessori.
“We have two main goals,” she says of her committee, which includes three other teachers (Ms. Joanie, Ms. Melissa M., and Ms. Vicki) who meet weekly to discuss their objectives and progress. “One, to make staff more comfortable with utilizing technology and Two, to integrate technology into the curriculum when appropriate so that students are prepared for an increasingly tech-dependent future.”
The committee, as early adopters, always take their new Chromebooks to these meetings (a gift from the FMS PTO) and share their notes on Google Drive. Throughout the week, each Committee Member, called a “Techie Partner,” meets with other staff members to assist them as needed. At every school-wide Administration Meeting, the committee presents a new app or skill that teachers may find useful, like systems for tracking attendance or adding comments to report cards.
Technology usage varies by grade level. At the primary level, the focus is on hands-on materials that create a physical connection with the learning environment. As students move into elementary, they use laptops periodically to acquire the basics of online research, MS Office and typing. At the middle school level, students are ready to integrate more cutting-edge technology into the curriculum in a way that enhances the overall learning process. Just a few recent and upcoming examples from E1:
- Using Prezi instead of PowerPoint to create dynamic, innovative presentations
- Creating stop-motion videos of cellular mitosis
- Creating online “Fakebook” profiles for prominent historical figures
- Visiting CNN.com to watch weekly student news broadcasts
- Using email for classroom communication
- Sending notes to overseas soldiers through online program
- Using Google Drive to save and store classroom assignments
- Contributing to the classroom blog
- Editing photos and collaborating on videos
- Using virtual dissection apps for an upcoming anatomy lab
- Researching in-depth topics using both books and accredited online sources
- Using Quizlet to create study guides
The E1 classroom is an incredibly interactive, dynamic, hands-on place, and the students have constant access to laptops, which they frequently use to “Google” the answers to questions that come up during class discussions. “If they have a question, they just go find the answer,” says Ms. Erica, who encourages this self-directed learning when the students have a moment of free time.
Recently, the Middle School students participated in Career Center Week, where they explored different careers that they found interesting. Chosen fields ranged from fashion design to architecture to medicine, and many students found that their occupation entailed frequent use of technology.
At least one student already has a jump start on the Silicon Valley programmers who create all this exciting new hardware and software. “Benjamin coded his own history quiz,” says Ms. Erica, still surprised and impressed. “He learned it online somewhere. Maybe on Wikipedia?”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the future is here.