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NCTA's Oak Lane Elementary event showcases technology's impact in the classroom
April 8, 2005

A second grader enjoys the applause of educators and community leaders at the Oak Lane celebration.

(HURDLE MILLS, NC) - A second grader beams as a roomful of grown-ups applauds. She has just shown them a PowerPoint presentation about Shirley Temple Black, complete with the sound of tap-dancing. She has stood in front of the crowd - including teachers, administrators, community leaders, county officials, even a Congressman - using technology to share what she has learned. And she has done it all with utter confidence.

Moments later, a county commissioner looks over student projects hanging in a school hallway. They include projects and papers on a variety of standard school subjects, from history to language arts to math. All were created using software that makes them visually arresting and easy to understand.

"The kids have generated this?" the commissioner asks a school official. "This is great to see small children have the knowledge to operate these things."

Welcome to Person County's Oak Lane Elementary, where a $250,000 federal earmark administered by the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA) has had a tremendous impact on staff and students over the past year.

Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) says classroom use of technology is vital to U.S. interests.

U.S. Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), who helped NCTA land the earmark project for Oak Lane, told community and educational leaders gathered at the school that the effective use of technology in schools is critical if the U.S. is to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive global economy.

"It is key that computer skills be as natural to students growing up now as riding a bicycle was for me," says Miller. "The kids at Oak Lane will be."

An outside evaluator's report on the project affirms that, citing "fundamental improvements to the teaching and learning environment" at Oak Lane since the NCTA project's implementation.

The majority of the earmark funding went to the purchase of new technology - from PCs and laptops to software, projectors and smart boards. The school now has a wealth of resources that teachers are using every day.

One reason the new tools are getting so much use is that another portion of the funding went to professional development, bringing QTL™ to Oak Lane's staff along with 123 other Person County teachers. The district set up a QTL™ Center next to Oak Lane's media center, and made the school a hub for professional development - and a showcase for the effective use of instructional technology.

Now technology is becoming second nature for many teachers and students.

"We just could not be more thrilled with what has happened here," says assistant superintendent Sandy Davis, who had high praise for NCTA's efforts to bring the project to Person County and make it work so well.

Classrooms have become more energetic and interactive, and students are becoming more active participants in their own learning process. They routinely use everything from digital cameras to graphing software in their study of the core curriculum. Teachers use projectors and smart boards and a variety of tech tools, and they use them in a way that engages students in the content they are supposed to be learning.

"We've just been really pleased with how the teachers have changed and the students have changed, and with what the students can do," says Ann Fox, one of two instructors who have delivered the QTL™ program to Person County educators. "We just can't speak highly enough of QTL. With many programs you are just teaching the technology, but that's not the case here. Teachers are learning instructional strategies."

Oak Lane fifth graders worked with kindergartners on a character education project, then presented the results to community and educational leaders.

Examples are plentiful. After completing QTL™, music teacher Beth Gillis began having some of her students complete a daily journal - just one of the strategies she learned.

Kindergarten teacher Michelle Harris and fifth grade teacher Amy Clayton paired their students for a study of character education, having the older students work with the younger children to create and deliver a PowerPoint presentation.

First grade teacher Michelle Jackson's students used digital cameras along with more traditional art tools to create a bulletin board about their community and the people in it.

Such activities show how well-planned classroom activities that incorporate technology can engage students. NCTA President Joan Myers says the success at Oak Lane is a strong argument for higher funding of classroom technology. She says North Carolina spends only $20 per student for classroom technology, compared to a national average of $120.

"How can we ask our students to (be competitive) if we don't give them the tools?" Myers asks. "How can you expect teachers to perform without the tools and the training on technology - not necessarily the bits and bytes, but in how technology should be intergrated into the curriculum?"

NCTA Board Chairman Joe Freddoso of Cisco Systems echoes that sentiment, saying that with 40% of ninth graders failing to graduate with their peers, it is crucial to get modern tools into students' hands.

"And sometimes it can be even more important to give teachers the professional development that shows them how to use it," Freddoso says, adding that the QTL™ program has been an important piece in the Oak Lane earmark project.

Once teachers have seen the impact technology can have, they're usually anxious to put it to work for their students.

"All of a sudden in the middle of the year, I started getting all these requests for equipment," says superintendent Ronnie Bugner. "But that's a good problem. They weren't just asking for equipment to have it, but because they had learned how to use it."

QTL instructor Sheila Mitchiner says the grant proposal that helped Oak Lane land the earmark funding called for the use of instructional strategies that help every student. "We're all acutely aware of what we want to do for ALL children. No Child Left Behind means just that - no child can be left out."

Oak Lane's earmark project is NCTA's second. The first was last year at Orange County's Efland Cheeks Elementary.


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

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