This story was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of Harker Quarterly
More than 20 teachers returned to campus this summer to focus on new ways to integrate technology into their curricula as part of Harker’s tech grant program, which aims to create more well-rounded and effective lesson plans that expand the school’s area of information literacy.
Each teacher focuses on one piece of technology and learns various ways to integrate its uses into his or her teaching.
Shelby Guarino, grade 5 advanced core English teacher, took this opportunity to expand the global education network by learning how to use Moodle, an open-sourced, community-based software that allows for interactivity.
Before her tech grant, Guarino worked closely with Jennifer Abraham, global education director, to share the students’ work with peers from Harker’s sister schools. “For the past two years, I have been doing some grammar art projects, which I would ask students to donate and mail to some of our sister schools,” Guarino said. “For the two years, it was working great, and finally, the last trimester of last school year, we got some work back.”
A tool already used by the department of global education to connect with sister schools in several places including Japan, Australia, China, Costa Rica and France, Moodle offers a new dimension to Guarino’s teaching, bringing collaboration and sharing to a whole new level. Using the software and exchanging videos, photos, audio files and projects, students in Guarino’s English class can collaborate with students at Saint Stephen’s College in Coomera, Australia, and create a more dynamic connection to learn more about different cultures and activities from other areas of the world.
“The goal is getting it to be part of the regular school day – communicating with peers around the world,” Abraham said. Guarino’s tech grant will introduce Moodle to the lower school campus.
Chrissy Chang, K-8 P.E. department chair, learned to use Athena and Microsoft PowerPoint to make health lectures, documents and resources more easily accessible to eighth graders. “Using Athena allowed me to share the curriculum in an orderly fashion, give easy access to students and, more importantly, to go green,” Chang said.
After attending a local workshop on using authentic sources in Spanish class, Diana Moss and Isabel Garcia, Spanish teachers for the upper and middle schools, respectively, decided to use this opportunity to create a Wikispace “as a vehicle for organizing and sharing the authentic sources we had found over the course of the week,” Moss said. The Wikispace includes links for music, cultural and geographical information about Spanish-speaking countries, literature and grammatical topics in an effort to bring the real world into the classroom.
Scott Kley Contini, grade 8 science teacher, used his grant to develop a blogging project, where students in his classes will write blogs, comment on their peers’ work and create a larger dialogue. Kley Contini noticed that slide shows rarely allowed for constructive discussions and found blogging to be a better alternative. “This will encourage them to communicate a little more as well as force them to really think analytically about what they are writing about,” he said. He hopes the assignment will teach his students to communicate differently and encourage them to come up with original content that none of their peers have previously posted.
Other tech grant projects included learning to use macros and Annotate Pro to grade more easily and efficiently, expanding the use of Audacity and continuing to utilize Athena to create easier file sharing, forums and polls. Aiming to keep curricula fresh, sharpen teachers’ skill sets and utilize alternative teaching resources, the tech grant program has allowed teachers to think outside the box and continue to thrive through Harker’s mission to “achieve academic excellence through the development of intellectual curiosity, personal accountability and love of learning.