Friday, March 16, 2007
New technologies enhance classrooms at Carlisle School
Carlisle School Technology Specialist Cyd McCann presented an overview of the variety of technological activities at the school to the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) on March 7. Her enthusiasm was apparent as she described the various ways Carlisle students and teachers are using technology in the classroom.
Second graders are creating PowerPoint presentations, she explained. The third and fourth grades frequently use the portable computer laboratories. "The lab carts are very busy," she said. Technology is used in many ways to support the curriculum, she explained. Students in the third grade used the computers to create tri-fold tourist brochures during their unit on Massachusetts. Sixth graders have developed 30-second "public service announcements" on subjects such as bullying and recycling. Students are able to watch educational video clips from the internet, stopping and starting as they take notes. Spanish teacher Andrea Seddon and McCann are in the early stages of creating a foreign language web page, allowing elementary students to access and practice their Spanish. As part of her Primary Source studies on Western Africa Seddon has been collaborating with music teacher Megan Fitzharris to create a website that traces the roots of black music. Primary Source, located in Watertown, is an educational foundation that runs programs and trips for educators to promote understanding of other cultures.
School Committee Chair Nicole Burkel noted how positive McCann is about technology and thanked her. "How receptive are teachers on all of this?" she asked. McCann replied the teachers are "very receptive" and interested, when a new technology is available, such as the iMovie software and they want to be involved and use it.
Burkel asked, "When did the kids create the public service announcements?" McCann explained the students worked on their pieces at a variety of times; in class, at lunch, or during advisory periods. They were very enthusiastic and would work when they could. "The problem," McCann explained, with all the projects is her time, which is spread thin. Hauling around the heavy computer carts is difficult, pushing them up and down ramps. She said the "ultimate goal" is to have a computer cart for each grade.
McCann gave examples of the technology uses being effective learning tools. One example is "FASTT Math," a math assessment tool. A tool used in science, "ProScope," has been an excellent asset. It is used to examine items such as rocks and minerals under microscopes which can be hooked to computers.
When McCann was asked what she needs, she said, "If I had an unlimited budget," a wireless network, one computer for each student, and an interactive white board for each classroom.
Three Promethean Activboards, interactive whiteboards, will be installed this spring, announced Doyle. The boards function as interactive computer screens on which material is projected by an attached, overhead projector. The board is mounted on two wall tracks, and can be raised or lowered for use by teachers and students. An "Activpen" is used to write on the board, and also functions as a mouse. The new whiteboards will be placed in three classrooms: Donna Clapp's (sixth grade), David Zuckerman's (seventh grade), and Mike Miller's (eighth grade). An existing board is in Wendy Stack's sixth-grade classroom. Doyle said she would eventually like to have one at each grade level. The boards are not portable, but are permanently installed on the classroom wall. She said there are plans to demonstrate the boards to parents in the fall after the teachers have had their three-week training in the summer. Doyle thanked "the generous CSA" for the donation of the Activboards.
Doyle attended the February "Promethean U.S. Summit" in Riverside, California. The focus of the conference was technology in education. She said it was "interesting to see the different schools represented" at the conference. She noted that urban schools are receiving the lion's share of grants for purchasing new technology such as the Activboards marketed by Promethean.
New policies for media release and school web site
Parent Alex Krapf expressed concern about storage of student data and safety of internet usage. Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle replied that safety is the "number one concern" of the school. A draft of the "Carlisle School Web Page Publishing Policy," caused lengthy discussions about the extent to which the school will control students' exposure to media. The document was created by McCann and Assistant to the Superintendent Claire Wilcox.
McCann explained the first two pages were a guide to creating and maintaining web pages. The last page was a "Faculty Web Page Publishing Agreement," which the staff would sign to show they understand the web policy.
The section entitled "Carlisle Schools Media Release," engendered the majority of the discussion. On the form parents would be told the school may "...occasionally publish students' names, photographs, or achievements on the school website, in school publications or release the information to local media." Doyle explained there are just a few families who do not allow their students' to be photographed and who sign the form currently provided each fall to "opt out." She said concerns of possible liability prompted a a move toward a more detailed policy. The board wondered whether it was necessary or feasible to restrict parents taking photos of activities such as classroom plays, sports events, or the seventh-grade play.
Wilcox said she gathered language for the permission slip from other schools. Concord, however, does not have parents sign a media release, she said. The school committee recommended the document be reworked, and discussed at a future meeting.
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