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QTL for IT Educators > News > Article Summaries > Current Article
Demonstration project inspires school's staff
May 4, 2005

(EFLAND , NC) Evaluation shows a $250,000 federal earmark project coordinated by NCEITA (the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association) significantly increased a North Carolina elementary school's technology infrastructure - and helped teachers understand how to use that technology to reach every student.

Efland Cheeks Elementary students learn in a newly-equipped lab thanks to the federal earmark program spearheaded by NCEITA.

As the project got underway in 2003, every teacher at Efland Cheeks Elementary in rural Orange County attended intensive professional development programs. Most started with applications-based training provided by Intel's Teach to the Future program, and followed that with ExplorNet's Quality Teaching & Learning™ or QTL™ program.

Mike Ingram, director of media and technology for Orange County Schools, says the combination was powerful, with hardware and software provided as tools, Teach to the Future laying a foundation and QTL™ building on it.

"The (QTL™) training was first-rate," he says. "When you put the two programs together, I think it's the perfect example. You increase not only the ability but the willingness of the staff to integrate technology every day."

Teachers verify that. Since emerging from the intensive staff development regimen, they've developed a 'can-do' attitude toward the use of technology in the classroom. The change has gone from theory to practice, partly because of QTL's required collaborative projects. Teachers attend the program in small teams, and work together on projects that bring their students into shared learning experiences.

One such project had fifth graders working together with kindergartners to study the idea of school uniforms. The two age groups collaborated to conceive and conduct a survey of the entire student body, as well as staff. They even sent surveys home to parents.

The results were eye-opening - younger students overwhelmingly liked the idea because they equate uniforms with police, firefighters and superheroes, while older students oppose it in favor of individuality. But Efland Cheeks technology coordinator Bob Warren says the true revelation was the interaction and learning that happened when teachers opened up the teaching process and let students help design their learning experience.

Students learned how to use software programs like Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint while studying the broader topics of social studies and math. They capped off the project with a closed-circuit TV presentation of results to the whole school - complete with a 'rap' by the younger students. Through it all, technology was a tool, but not the focus - and Warren says that's how it should be.

"Staff development is about instruction," he says. "Technology is just the vehicle. In some professional development the technology is emphasized most. Instruction is what drives this (QTL™)."

Warren says he has been through numerous computer trainings, but ExplorNet's QTL program managed to change his thinking about how to put technology to work in the classroom. He no longer simply tries to teach students how to use software programs. Instead, he teaches core subjects and uses technology as a support tool.

For example, instead of teaching software programs step-by-step, he assigns students to study clouds, or volcanoes, or lighthouses. Then they use technology - software programs like Word, Excel or PowerPoint - to show what they've learned. In the process, they not only learn the core content, they learn technology as it is used in the 'real world.' Students can work at their own pace as self-directed learners.

Elsewhere in the school, teachers used the collaborative, 'curriculum first' approach of QTL™ to design group learning projects. One such effort had second and third graders from different classrooms working together on a study of Native Americans. Assigned to study how different environments affected the cultures of various Native American cultures, groups of students used the Internet for research and software tools to put the information they gathered into a form they could share with classmates. The project integrated technology with subjects like social studies, history and art. Students improved critical social skills, as well.

Teachers formulated the idea after Teach to the Future, and carried it further after QTL™. They planned and executed the project together.

"The collaborative opportunities were some of the best components of this," says third grade teacher Stacy Lingle, adding that the professional development gave her new confidence in the classroom. "We've all been enriched. We used the technology to enhance all the other curriculum. And students got to use it realistically."

ExplorNet's Tamara McCulloch, who delivered the QTL™ program at Efland Cheeks, says that collaborative project had students actively involved and engaged, and in end gave them "a deeper level of understanding of Native Americans" as well as showing them how to use the 'worldwide library' of the Internet.

Third grade teacher Linda Lloyd concurs. "When they looked at it in that context, I think they really learned more historic information and understood it better."

Warren says teachers learned not only how to work together on major collaborative projects, but how to use technology efficiently on a daily basis. For instance, Lingle assigned students to study a topic. Then, instead of a test, she had them create a brief PowerPoint presentation with specific information on what they had learned.

ExplorNet Director of Instruction Janice Johnson says it's clear Efland Cheeks teachers now have a clearer understanding not only of technology, but of effective classroom practice. "They're not trying to put everyone on the same page at the same time," she says. "They realize that everyone learns differently.

"Students learn from each other and teach each other. Teachers need to use collaboration and cooperative grouping. and allow that to happen."


For more information, contact Robin Fred via e-mail at or call him at 888.507.3800.

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