Technology in the classroom is inevitable, Lakeview Academy teachers are learning.
For a sixth year, the school hosted a technology conference for private school teachers around the state to learn how to incorporate the latest ideas into their lesson plans.
After years of integrating laptops into high school curriculum, Lakeview is launching a laptop program for its middle school students. Now, teachers from Columbus and Savannah area schools are wondering how to start a similar program.
"We’re realizing as a society that access to technology can give students a competitive edge," said Connie White, Lakeview’s director of technology and media. "It helps them to develop the skills to be successful in the workplace, and a lot of things have changed recently for the schools. Handhelds are becoming more affordable, and students need to develop high-end video and graphic skills earlier."
White and other Lakeview teachers led seminars about Google resources, Moodle online learning communities and Wiki resource pages. With the idea of increasing classroom productivity and engaging students more than ever, teachers then separated into groups by subject area and created lesson plans using helpful websites.
"When we first started using laptops, I hated it. I wasn’t enthusiastic, and it drove me crazy," said Michael McCann, Lakeview’s U.S. history teacher. "Now I’ve gotten more and more interested, and it’s taken several years to feel relatively comfortable."
McCann presented a list of websites that incorporate documents from the National Archives, Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution and talked about the ups and downs of using an online textbook.
"It’s not brilliant or exciting writing, but it does cover the material, and it’s nice to have for free," he said, pointing to lesson plans on DigitalHistory.com. "I like to get the students to build their own lesson plans for what they think is important during a period in time. It gives a way of interacting with a textbook that traditional ones don’t have."
For school officials unfamiliar with the expanding technology options, moving in a new direction can be scary, White said.
"We teach the way we do because of the Industrial Revolution, and we need to look at the way school actually happens and think about ways to motivate students to gain control of their own learning," she said. "It’s a culture of change that must involve commitment from the parents and students."
With Internet safety seminars and laptop usage rules in place, White said Lakeview administrators don’t have to worry about illegal downloads or inappropriate online activity.
"The students want to focus on the ultimate goal and their projects, and here they learn how to build websites and uses Wikis," she said.
What starts out as an old-fashioned book report quickly turns into a movie and interactive project in Crystal Beach’s English class.
"I wanted to create a reading community within my classroom and found it created a reading community within our school," Beach told other English teachers. "I showed a movie project at an assembly, and a student asked me later that day what the book was because she wanted to check it out."
Lakeview’s program encouraged teachers like Lynn Gifford, a seventh-grade history teacher at Brookstone School in Columbus, where freshmen are starting a laptop program this fall.
"It should be interesting because parents who bought the computers are going to expect them to be used," she said. "I think part of my job is to help colleagues who aren’t as eager."