Federally funded project shows importance of classroom technology, teacher training
(EFLAND, NC) - Educators, business leaders and legislators are hailing a $250,000 federal classroom technology project in a rural Orange County school as a major success story for the school. Rep. David Price, a Democratic Congressman who championed the project, calls it "a demonstration of what can be done, and what needs to be done."
Staff and students at Efland Cheeks Elementary were joined at a May 3rd celebration of the project by advocates who made it possible, including Rep. Price and members and leadership of the state's Information Technology industry group, NCEITA (the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association). NCEITA worked with Rep. Price and Sen. John Edwards to obtain the federal earmark funding in 2002, selected the demonstration site, and shepherded the project.
The goal was to show what a single school could accomplish with substantial funding for new technology and professional development programs to help teachers use that technology to its fullest potential.
NCEITA used more than three-quarters of the money to buy equipment including new computers, software and peripherals such as digital cameras and microscopes. Each teacher got a laptop they can take home for use in lesson planning and research. Media search stations were upgraded. NCEITA went to member companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Alphanumeric Systems for discounts to help stretch technology dollars. But as substantial as the improvements to the infrastructure were, some teachers say the biggest impact came from professional development that showed them how to use those new tools to increase student learning.
Fifth grade teacher Lou Brogden says she already had some technology at her disposal, but wasn't putting it to use because she didn't know how to use it, or realize how useful it could be. She says intensive training was the key to turning that around. "As we older teachers have come in, we've been able to learn so much more that we've been able to integrate into our classrooms," she says.
Third grade teacher Linda Lloyd agrees the intensive approach has worked wonders and has shown teachers ways to reach students of all backgrounds, which is a key component of meeting the requirements of federal No Child Left Behind legislation. "One of the biggest problems with workshops is we are back into the classroom and have no time to implement," she says. "With this, we've had time. This is one of the best things that have happened to our school."
Teachers say they're extremely pleased with the results of that shift in thinking and the increased use of tools like the software program Accelerated Math. "We have already seen an average of about two and a half years growth in my class," Brogden says, "and we're not even through the year yet!"
To learn to make the most of the new tools at their disposal, teachers went through 110 hours of professional development, beginning with an Intel-sponsored training primarily geared toward computer applications. That was followed by the intensive 50-hour professional development experience of QTL™ or Quality Teaching & Learning™. The QTL™ program, offered by the Raleigh-based non-profit ExplorNet, shows teachers that technology should be used along with research-based teaching approaches in order to reach every student in the classroom. It encourages teachers to collaborate on projects that actively engage students.
Orange County Schools' Superintendent, Dr. Shirley Carraway, thanked all involved for making the project a success. "We all know that as we provide opportunities for our students to embrace technology, we open doors to places they've never been able to go," she said, adding that technology is no longer a luxury but a necessity and a critical life skill. "Technology proficiency is a tool our students MUST have."
Dr. Rebecca Horne, principal at Efland Cheeks, says the combination of Intel and ExplorNet training along with the additional tools like Accelerated Math was essential. She says teachers had the opportunity to learn in small bits, and build on that through collaboration, teamwork and peer mentoring. School technology coordinator Bob Warren agrees. "That's what training should do -- give you a picture of what you can do in the classroom. I've enjoyed working with teachers as they've learned to visualize what they can do." (Read more about what Efland Cheeks teachers have done this year.)
"This program places the tools of technology in the hands of competent, caring, well-prepared teachers," says ExplorNet CEO Dave Boliek. "The result not only increases teachers' capacity to meet each student's needs and increases student learning, but it also results in students being more engaged in their own learning. The result is that technology is more important than we ever thought it was or would be."
"This training component is worth underscoring," Rep. Price says. "We can't just be bringing in fancy equipment and imagine that it's just a matter of equipping a school. We need to increases the confidence level of our teaching force. It's a matter of teachers having the initiative and the get up and go to get training. And that's what has happened here."
Price says the challenge will be replicating Efland Cheeks' success in other schools, providing same the resources on a broader level. He says that is critical "if the circle of opportunity is going to be widened and if North Carolina is going to keep pace."
NCEITA Board Vice Chair Joe Freddoso of Cisco agrees the technology placed in schools and the professional development provided for teachers are important to the state's future economic health. "Good schools are fundamental to recruiting new companies to the region and to recruiting brain power to the region."
Freddoso says it's ironic that North Carolina is a leader in many aspects of public education, but falls down in the area of classroom technology. "North Carolina spends less than $10 per child for education technology," he says. "Compare that to the national average of about $120 per student." Freddoso says the state has bright students and great teachers, "but we need to give them the right tools."
NCEITA is working toward that goal with two more federal earmark projects set for implementation this year. The first, secured with support from Rep. Brad Miller's office, starts this summer in Person County. The second, obtained with help from Rep. Howard Coble's office, starts later this year in the Sandhills region.
Two representatives of the Person County project attended the May 3rd event. The project will be based at Oak Lane Elementary School, but QTL™ professional development will be available to teachers throughout the district beginning this summer. Person County's Ann Fox says she is excited by what she has heard, and looking forward to bring the project to her system.
"I can't wait to see what our teachers do with this."
|For more information, contact Robin Fred via e-mail at or call him at 888.507.3800.
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