Jane shares the story of her steady growth in technology
I started teaching in the early 1980's, as a special education teacher. Commodore 64s and Apple computers were just being introduced in schools, and I learned to program in Basic. Computers were in labs, and mostly used for keyboarding and drill and practice programs. After six years of teaching I completed a master's degree in special education at the University of Oregon. I became adept at using spreadsheet, database, and word processing programs to complete my thesis. Afterward, I started teaching in Eugene.
All kinds of things had started happening in technology! HyperCard was hot and young children were learning to really compute, not just react to prompts from a computer. Word processing programs had improved greatly, and learning disabled students in my class were given a great gift. In general, technology assistance made life better for a lot of people with disabilities.
By 1990 I was using e-mail and managing some caseload data from my computer. We had only three networked (VAX system) terminals in the school, so the Internet wasn't too accessible for kids. I, however, used gopher and fetch, and was introduced to archie, jughead and veronica! I was telneting into the district media center to order films, subscribing to listservs, and browsing for lesson plans from repositories such as ERIC. Meanwhile, I was teaching students to use production software and HyperCard, and they practiced basic skills using programs such as those from Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC). Students in my class participated in an acid rain project in 1990. Our school and others across Lane County tested local ground water for acidity and posted results via e-mail to the local ESD. Invention Convention was another e-mail project we participated in, where students invented and marketed imaginary products. Their efforts were judged for strength of concept, writing, and creativity.
By 1992 the district had passed a general obligation bond that funded wiring and desktop computers for each teacher. Our school traded Apple IIe's for networked Macintosh computers in the lab. We bought many pieces of peripheral equipment, including printers, digital cameras, a panel viewer and a scanner. Local technology advances coincided with the burgeoning of the World Wide Web, and educating with computers changed quickly. Our district's technology department trained teachers to use the World Wide Web and local servers.
In 1994 the district offered what was for me a pivotal course, a web authoring class. In the course we developed a web unit, writing in html. Within a year or so, WYSIWYG-authoring programs such as Claris HomePage came along and Web page development became something kids could do.
In 1994 I started teaching in general education. I currently teach a blended fourth and fifth grade class. In the past several years my students have participated in a variety of web-based projects. These include: The Salmon Project, The Pet Project, Voyage of the Mimi I & Voyage of the Mimi II and Travel USA. (These projects can be viewed at the Harris Teacher-Developed Units site at http://schools.4j.lane.edu/harris/tdu.htm.)
Often I don't have time to build a web page to channel student use of the World Wide Web, so I set up a desktop folder with topical sets of bookmarks to aid student research.
Before the World Wide Web gained prominence, technology in my classroom had served primarily as a production tool for students-- they used word processing and draw programs, and HyperCard to produce work. With the advent of the World Wide Web, computers became more of an information retrieval device, and production was suddenly secondary. In the last year I feel I've integrated the two functions more effectively.
For example, in literature class this last spring, students read biographies of notable Americans. Then they used the Internet and traditional resources to develop multimedia presentations about their subjects. In the resulting project, students used a Claris Works slide show, to display scanned drawings, QuickTime video, images they got off the web, and original text.
In the next year I want to introduce HyperStudio as a production and presentation tool. I'm learning about Cocoa, a programming language for kids. I started using MS PowerPoint for some demonstrations last year, but think it's complicated and at the same time somewhat one-dimensional for kids. I have taught several students to design web pages and have published student work on our school web site, but I haven't yet found a purpose for having every child build their own Web page. I'm sure this will come, as interest is very high.