By Nancy Gutierrez
In this age of technology not using a computer is like saying phones aren't really useful. While writing a letter to grandma could be described as a nostalgic activity, turning in handwritten reports to teachers or employers is unacceptable.
In Exeter Public Schools teachers and administrators are working to make students in kindergarten through 12th grade computer savvy by implementing technology into daily curriculum. They are not enrolling kids in computer classes but using computer programs and multimedia devices to teach standards in English and other courses.
The Technology plans were implemented last year, but Director of Technology and Student Achievement Chuck Delap along with Nora Allstedt, Betsy Bentley, Dina Haney and Nancy Winningham began work on the plan long before that.
The original concept was created by Delap who saw the need to improve student skills.
"We had the technology but it was not being used to its full potential with the students," he said. "The skills were isolated and not teacher friendly."
Delap formed a technology coalition with teachers from each grade to break down the technology standards for kindergarten through eighth grade. Once it was decided what skills each grade level should learn an end of the year project was created for students to complete, demonstrating their knowledge of that level of technology. Then the team created lesson plans for teachers to use to guide students to their technology skill standard and to ensure that skill levels would progress smoothly from grade to grade.
"We wanted to ensure equity, that every child had exposure in all areas," Delap said. "So we went a step further and had media specialists in the library work on the plan. That is the one place that all the kids pass through."
Elementary and Middle School standards
Schools in the Exeter Union School District in past years have increased their amount of computers or resources for computers to aid in the implementation of this plan. Rocky Hill received 30 computers for their newest computer lab. Wilson Middle School also has a new lab and increased computers in classrooms. At Lincoln, Librarian Nancy WInningham purchased new mini keyboards perfect for the little hands of kindergarten, first and second graders.
All of these materials are necessary especially with the research and technology standards.
At Lincoln, Winningham rotates through the kindergarten and first grade students throughout the year but teaches second grade the entire year.
Each grade has its own standard to reach by the end of the year. Winningham utilizes the pre-made lesson plans to teach students core curriculum standards in math or language arts as well as technology.
"End of the year competencies for second grade include using proper finger positions at home and top row," she said. "We work on key-boarding and they must be able to use most tools in paint."
The students have lessons in counting and the word spelling of numbers. Kindergartners learn the alphabet and where letters are on the keyboard as well as how to turn the computer on and off and exploring microsoft Word.
"I'm thrilled with what we're doing," Lincoln teacher Annie Speck said. "Now they are creating lengthier text, sometimes children can't put things down on paper but it's easier on the computer and they just launch off."
A majority of the emphasis is placed on the second grade to prepare the students for standards in third grade.
"The standards are more stringent in third through fifth," Winningham said.
The skill level of the students continues to grow and by eighth grade the students are using the internet to search through web-site information, citing web references in reports, utilizing email, and creating detailed documents in Word processing. The end of the year assessment for eight grade involves writing a research report and preparing a power point presentation.
"Technology is not the goal itself," Winningham said. " It's an avenue for them to take to achieve their goals."
Though eighth grade students must use graphics in their research report and have the ability to create a powerpoint presentation, the topic of the project concerns something they must learn as a state standard. Students must correctly state their thesis and have supporting information from researched material and have little to no grammatical mistakes.
"Kids today need different skills," Winning ham said. "These skills should be second nature to them, like using a pencil and paper. That's what they'll need when they go to work."
High School standards
The technology plan for EUHSD is being implemented this year. At the high school level skills learned are even more advanced. Some of the research and technology standards include language arts skills such as; using clear research questions and suitable research methods to elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources, developing main ideas within the body of a composition through supporting evidence, designing and publishing documents by using advanced publishing software and graphic programs, among others. The technology standard becomes part of the language arts standards.
For each academic standard the technology committee created technology tasks to utilized and learn.
In 12th grade english, for example students learn literary response and analysis. Their technology task or project might be to select an author to research and develop a multi media presentation describing the authors background and influences. In US History students might develop a flow chart showing the economic causes of the great depression and subsequent events.
The elementary and middle schools have finished their first full year of technology education and students completed their end of the year tasks. Delap reported the outcomes to the EUSD board at the Sept. 23 board meeting.
In a report on the progress of learner outcomes Delap said, "Considering this is the first year of implementation, we were pleased with the results. The board discussed each grade level technology outcome and revisions to the plan are being made for the 2003- 2004 school year."
The report showed that every grade except two had over 85 percent of its students meet the technology outcomes. Third and fourth grade had 71 and 75 percent of its students meet the outcomes respectively.
"Sites should be commended for their efforts in the implementation of the technology learner outcomes," Delap said. "Each site has gone above and beyond in helping our students achieve mastery of content at each grade level."