Innovate to Educate Entry
Bordentown Regional Schools
Amy Wright, Computer Teacher / STEM Coordinator
What innovative technology initiative or project are you most proud of, and how has it improved teaching and learning in your school/district?For the last 10 years I have taught Middle School Computers. The course was designed to give students in grades 6, 7, and 8 an introduction to Microsoft Office products and file management. It didn't take long to realize that the students were already doing a lot of this in the younger grades but they didn't really understand how computers work. So, I sought funding to bring Lego NXT robots to our classroom. I redesigned the 6th grade course to introduce students to the basics of Computers (identifying hardware, software and the important job of processing instructions). They were immediately hooked! Every child, from every nationality, socio-economic background and every ability was working together to build robots and programming them to solve problems. Along with building robots, they were building confidence and gaining problem solving skills that carried over into Math and Science classes.
What were some of the biggest challenges to your initiative, and how did you meet those challenges?There are two big challenges that arose from this initiative. (1) Resources -- the time and space to really give students the chance to explore was not there due to scheduling constraints. I decided to have students work in partner pairs and we expanded beyond our four walls into the hallway for extra space. The other challenge (2) was finding the 'next step' for these newly inspired students. For 4 years following that first class of Lego NXT robotics, there was no opportunity for students to take a class using their new found love of programming, building and engineering. I developed some summer camps that helped a small group of students pursue their interests. With the revenue from the camps, we were able to purchase 2 NAO robots and 12 Sphero SPRK robots. In turn, we offered even more camps! However, there was no class above 6th grade where they could earn academic credit for programming....until 2016! A change in administration has lead to the development of new courses at the High School and for the first time in the history of the school district a Computer Science course which focuses on Computer Programming is being offered and I am going to be teaching it! Out of 6 classes that I will teach this coming school year, 4 of them are the new Computer Science course! In addition, the popularity of the camps has shown that students want to explore STEM and 2016 also brings a new STEM Coordinator position to the district to coordinate extra-curricular opportunities to all students from K-12.
What are the three biggest components that need to be in place for tech innovation to succeed are:
In order for ed-tech innovation to succeed in education, administration and the school board must be involved and supportive.
|Once the support has been established, funding is needed to gather resources (both technology and curriculum).|
|Finally it is vital to have a staff that can deliver content that excites and inspires a diverse population of students to want to learn and to explore something completely new without fear!|