This story originally appeared in the fall 2013 Harker Quarterly.
For more than a decade, Harker’s summer tech grant program has enabled Harker teachers to find new and exciting ways to enhance and diversify the ways they teach, whether it be creating engaging presentations, providing students with access to more learning resources or simply finding better ways to organize homework and in-class assignments.
Lower school English teacher Katie Molin decided to acclimate herself more to some of the Chromebook applications that her students will be using during the year. “As an English teacher, I’m always interested in ways to make the teaching of essay writing easier, the grading of essays more efficient, and the feedback more meaningful,” she said.
To accomplish this, she learned how to use Google Docs as a way for students to submit their work. “Google Docs will allow me to give the students more detailed feedback on their writing. It will be easier for them to edit their work, and I will know when they think they have ‘fixed’ the problem,” she said. “Their work will be stored and accessible now in a way it wasn’t before.”
Molin’s students will also use Blogger, another Google product, to post responses to short stories. She also plans to use her own blog to inform parents about their students’ classwork.
In order to show lower and middle school English teachers how to use Membean, a new online vocabulary program, English teacher Patricia Lai Burrows created tools that explained how the program works and how to show students to use it. “I created videos using Google Hangout on Air to navigate through the Membean teacher dashboard, understand the class statistics and create quizzes,” she said. “As part of this process, I learned how to create YouTube channels to house all my videos, and also to include Google Effects to enhance and add some humor to the presentations.”
Burrows said her training tools would help ease the burden on teachers as they prepared for another school year. “I know how daunting it is for a teacher to have to learn a new tool while prepping for the coming year and adjusting to all the other changes that naturally occur in a new year,” she said. “I wanted to create resources that would manage teacher stress associated with learning a completely new program like this one.”
She further added that the tech grant program is a great opportunity for faculty to learn skills that will benefit both themselves and their students. “I am grateful that the school encourages this kind of professional development, and it appears to me to be a win-win situation,” she said.
Building on their tech grant project from last year, upper school librarian Meredith Cranston and history teacher Julie Wheeler created an online area where AP Government students can create websites devoted to a topic they will be focusing on during the school year.
“We liked the political discussions they were having on the blog, but we wanted them to get more into media analysis, looking at where they were getting their political news, what perspectives these news sources might have, and just thinking a little more critically about media messages in general,” Cranston said.