This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 Harker Quarterly.
Over the summer, several teachers received grants from the Harker Tech Grant program to discover new ways in which technology could help them in the classroom. Started roughly 10 years ago, the program has since helped dozens of teachers become more well-rounded and effective educators by expanding their teaching skill sets as well as their ability to receive, track and organize information.
Upper school theater teacher Jeffrey Draper explored how video editing techniques could be used to create online videos that combined images, PowerPoint presentations, lecture notes and interviews. “I want students to see my prepared materials as homework in place of classroom lectures,” Draper said. “Then we can work with the information in the classroom through quizzes and discussions rather than having me deliver the lecture material in class and not have the time to address the information with the students in person.”
Draper wants to finish 10 videos by the end of 2011 and improve them as needed through editing. “I will be working more with video editing over the course of the year to improve the quality of the videos,” he said, “and I look forward to sharing any techniques I learn that may be useful to other teachers.”
Jonathan Brusco and Andrea Milius, middle school history teachers, decided to make their curriculum more diverse and robust by providing online resources for their students. “We rewrote our curriculum and we identified all the standards, and we created our benchmarks that matched with the standards,” Milius said. To meet these benchmarks, a large number of online resources are provided that include both required and supplemental information. “It supplements, but it can also be extra information that we want students to read, and so we’re not just dictated by our textbook,” said Milius. Lower school librarian Kathy Clark and middle school librarian Bernie Morrissey were “instrumental” in helping the two teachers find resources, Milius said.
AP Psychology teacher Kelly Horan opted to leverage the rapidly growing field of mobile technologies for her tech grant project, which used an iPhone app called Assessa that allows her to collect data sent to her by students, evaluate it and send it back to them. Horan’s students lead class discussions throughout the year, during which they collect data based on a rubric that is posted online. The iPhone app allows her to keep all of the necessary information sent to her by students in one place. “I was just having a hard time keeping all of the paperwork together,” she said.
Cyrus Merrill, middle school history teacher, created videos of all of his content lectures and uploaded them to YouTube. He also adapted his classroom for multimedia use. “I converted my room into a black box theater with curtains on all the walls so I can make my room into a theater and focus student attention on specific parts of the wall or only certain screens,” he said. He created a setup that allows him to hang screens on each wall and display images and video clips on them.
“I also researched what I call FAME (fashion, art, music and entertainment) throughout the eight units I teach to incorporate specific social history activities that are hands-on for the most part,” he said.
The purpose of Merrill’s project was to make his classroom more interactive and participatory, and to allow his students to have access to basic points of lectures at home. “I hope it will inspire my students to see class as a dynamic experience with rich visuals and context to put the content into,” he said.