Technology can help teach kids to be globally-minded.
The shift in technology integration has proven very valuable to learning, but it has also been valuable to the Earth. I have observed many computer lab lessons in the past in which the students worked very hard on a product such as a picture, document, slide show, etc. Just before the class ended the teacher said, “Okay, time is just about up. Everyone stop what you are doing and click save and print.” How much paper did we waste with these lessons? I can only imagine.
The amount was ridiculous when we looked at our spending on color prints in one year in York. It was such a high price that we have stopped color printing all together for the rest of the school year. This took place shortly after the winter holiday break. Of course, there were some arguments and frustrations, but this initiative has really inspired teachers to look towards new forms of multimedia products. It has forced many teachers to publish web sites, develop project based learning with multimedia, and enter the world of Web 2.0.
Projects created in the lab are now appearing on web sites across the globe. Early elementary students are creating single slides for class slide shows using programs like Clicker Paint, Kidpix, and Hyperstudio 5. They are blogging about their writing and books they have read in class. Second graders are creating biographies using Comic Life, Time Liner XE, and Keynote. Third and fourth graders are using GPS in the classroom to learn about places on the Earth and are even entering the world of geocaching to create virtual Flat Stanley travel bugs that are currently traveling all over the globe.
Of course, our district communication has changed too. The office no longer sends home folders full of packets and announcements. Instead, every flyer, announcement, or brochure is published to the school web site and eMail reminders are sent to parents across the district. Podcasts, online radio shows, and live broadcast news programs are recorded right here in our elementary school buildings, and published on our web sites for the entire local and global communities.
Our fourth graders researched renewable energies and created public service announcements using digital video cameras and iMovie. Last year students entered the Maine Recycles Commercial Contest and submitted short public service announcements to persuade community members to recycle. All of these videos can be seen on our “Going Green” web page.
This shift hasn’t just happened in our computer labs. Recent field trips have been video taped or recorded as a podcast with student interviews and reflections.
The students observed that we were throwing away too much trash in the lunch room as well. This observation, along with a great deal of research, promoted the soil production project at Coastal Ridge Elementary School. Each pod, or group of 4 classrooms, now has worm bins outside their doors. There are also a couple worm bins in the lunch room. These worm bins are used to break down biodegradable trash with the help of some hungry worms, and produce very fertile soil. Our hope is to build a greenhouse outside of the school this summer and plant vegetables to help make our school lunch program more sustainable.
Something as simple as cutting down on printing projects has truly inspired a revolution here in York. The students have found new enthusiasm and a real world connection with many of these projects. There is a great sense of pride not only in the finished products, but also in knowing they are helping their community. What types of “green” projects have you been working on in your schools?
Eric Lawson is a technology integration specialist with the York School District in York, Maine.