After reviewing all the proposals, CCS awarded the grant to Superstition Springs Elementary because Gresser’s submission focused on providing hands-on, interactive learning to students using the latest classroom technology with the goal of improving students’ learning comprehension. The proposal fit perfectly with CCS’s intentions for the grant.
After awarding the grant to Gresser, CCS outfitted her first grade classroom with a ceiling-mounted NEC NP400 projector, a SMART interactive whiteboard where the projector image is displayed, a SMART interactive electronic table for the students to input data, an eInstruction student-response system, a Mobi wireless slate, an Avermedia document camera, an Audio Enhancement audio system, two Epson heavy-duty color printers with paper and ink for life, and related hardware and network wiring. Additionally, students were provided RM Tuff Cam cameras for taking still and motion pictures. The system interfaced with Macintosh computers that were networked with internet access.
“We are now able to go on interactive web sites like Johnny’s math page for math lessons, and we also access StarFall.com, a reading site for improving skills, neither of which we could do before receiving the grant,” said Gresser.
“Some of our students are from economically disadvantaged homes, and one of my students didn’t know what a path was – he comes from an urban environment. So I typed ‘path’ into Google and brought up images on the projector. As a result, when we came to that word in the reading assignment, his comprehension and recognition were evident, and he was able to bridge the gap.”
The document camera proved especially useful for students who were learning English as a second language. By putting the textbook under the document camera and reading aloud while text is projected onto the screen, students can follow along easier with an increased ability to concentrate on the group task. Math lessons are completed under the document camera so that problems can be explained to ensure complete comprehension.
“I recently taught a social studies lesson about Egypt and took the students on a virtual field trip to the Pyramids,” said Gresser. “Using the projector, I was able to show big pictures and text that every student could see and enjoy. We also visited the desert, where students learned about the plants and animals via images I showed using the projector. We also watched a YouTube video posted by the Arizona Department of Fish & Game that explains how plants look during the summer drought.”
As the success of the rollout became obvious, Principal Rogers tapped available sources to bring the technology into more classrooms. Now, Superstition Springs Elementary has purchased 25 NEC NP400 units, with plans to buy another 21 units so all of the classrooms have NEC projectors. Preparations are underway to mount a majority of the projectors to the ceiling. Rogers has decided to focus her budget on the projectors because she believes they are the most important part of the technology upgrade. In fact, most of the classrooms rely on computers instead of electronic whiteboards to complement the projectors.
“We find that our teachers are clamoring for the projectors, and as more rooms are equipped, you can hear teachers in the lounge exchanging ideas on how to add new content to the lessons and how to improve the flow of a lesson based on these new technologies,” Rogers said. “Our students are provided real-world experiences and gain a much quicker grasp on lessons. The grant has energized students and teachers, as well as motivating senior staff to allocate funds to continue the project into other classrooms.”
According to Rogers, the goal is to introduce technology with specific objectives in mind, not just for technology’s sake. Rogers noted that reinventing instruction with these new tools takes some time. Teachers try the new approach one subject at a time and build from their successes and experiences.
Rethinking the curriculum has taken considerable thought, but her teachers are continually finding new ways to leverage the new tools to improve learning and interaction with students.
“We are very pleased with the results of the project,” said Rogers. “We’re seeing improved technology literacy among the students, enhanced student attention during class, and better reading and math comprehension. Class is more fun and engaging for our students, and that translates into academic excellence.”
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