A Rant: "Mr. H's Technology Proposal"

I have wanted to post this idea for a long time and I was always hesitant to include this idea within this forum but I decided today too bad so sad I will -

This entire idea is from the brain of Mr. H's - as always he deserves all of the credit. 

This is nearly 2 years in the making but later this summer I hope to provide more ideas like this which could eventually create the school that I wish could exist.

The hope is for the 2011-2012 school year that all students entering social studies classrooms will experience a year long curriculum equipped with second generation iPads

Project Title: Social Studies Adoption of Technology in the Classroom
Number of teachers participating: Approximately 18
Grade Levels: 6th, 7th, 8th
Number of students participating: Approximately 1600 (entire middle school population)

Project Objective:

As the district embarks on Strategic Planning meetings and the social studies Curriculum Design Team continues our schools are looking towards the future. In our social studies classrooms we must do the same. We find ourselves examining the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the National Council for Social Studies recommendations - the use of new and changing technology will be an essential part of the curriculum and of our future. Students need to be taught the changing communication methods utilized throughout the world while being introduced to the amazing possibilities that exist. Students will utilize technology in accessing material, researching information, presenting Current Events (and other projects), experiencing different cultures, witnessing key ideas and terms, among other ways teacher choose to incorporate technology into lessons. Students need to learn how to apply technology while also learning how to evaluate the sources that are available to them. In the past, information was difficult to find. Now, information is flooding the lives of our students and it is our job to teach students how to effectively and efficiently find valuable information and evaluate all of these sources.

The main philosophies behind social study curricula are: critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. This technology proposal allows for increased communication and collaboration among students while providing more comprehensive and complete problem solving opportunities to develop critical thinking.

Project Rationale:

Our proposal begins with our 6th graders - as they enter District 112's middle schools they will learn several basic technology skills. As the students progress through middle school their skills will evolve and continue to grow. It is important to remember that technology does not replace curriculum, instead, technology should enhance the ability of students to attain and retain the knowledge being delivered in the classroom. This proposal is not in opposition of any proposed or possible curriculum but instead will allow District 112 to be in an optimal position to move forward and best reach the students. Another important element of this proposal is the ability to properly differentiate for students of all academic levels.  Social studies classrooms at District 112 have a wide range of students; the use of technology will help meet all IEP, GEP, 504 plans, etc.

Looking at the NSSD112 Social Studies Vision Statement, we find that this proposal is supported strongly by several statements:
  • All students should actively participate in a developmentally appropriate social studies curriculum.
  • Problem solving, critical thinking, content-based literacy and collaborative learning are integral to social studies instruction.
  • Students should use a variety of information resources, including technology, for the purpose of finding and presenting information.
  • Students should critically evaluate sources, ideas, information, and trends.
  • Students should develop an awareness and understanding of current events and contemporary issues.
  • Students should learn the value of civic engagement.
  • The social studies curriculum must include a multicultural perspective.
  • The core social studies curriculum must be both guaranteed and viable.

Connection to Strategic Plan:
This proposal for social studies classrooms are closely connected to the Strategic Plan developed by NSSD112. The strategies:

4. We will develop and implement plans to ensure we have the facilities and technology infrastructure needed to achieve our mission and objectives.
5. We will develop a plan to unify our community by improving understanding of the benefits of its rich diversity and engaging it as a critical partner in the education of our children.
6. We will create a nurturing, learning environment that actively engage students’ creativity, critical thought and intellectual curiosity.

An additional benefit: Going "paperless"
The following photos demonstrate the amount of paper (not including that used for tests or handouts, which numbers in the thousands of pages per year) used in one 6th grade social studies
classroom in one school year. This proposal will help the district continue upon their path of embracing more environmentally friendly practices.

Project Description:

NSSD112 6th grade social studies classrooms will be equipped with a set of classroom iPads. These iPads will have access to the internet enabling all students to utilize a variety of Google Sites, Web 2.0 applications, and open source sites. In year two, this proposal will be expanded to include District 112 7th grade social studies classrooms, and in year three into 8th grade social studies classrooms.  This progression will enable the development of technology skills to continue with the students.

1.    Google
a.    Gmail
i. Each student would receive a faculty-monitored gmail account, allowing teachers to communicate directly with students electronically.  Assignments, rubrics, and product descriptors can be sent directly to students. Students will be taught how to organize their mail and folders.
b.    Google Reader
i. Links to articles/important news topics can be “shared” directly with students in their online folders allowing teachers to select most important/relevant/standards-based topics for summary explanation and connection.
c.    Google Docs
i. No Microsoft or Mac software licenses would need to be purchased.  Students would create and edit documents in the online google database.  These documents could then be opened, edited, saved, and shared from any computer with an Internet connection.  This would eliminate the need for jump drives, would eliminate the excuse of “I lost it” (revisions can be retrieved, and would eliminate the problems resulting from trying to convert one document format (i.e Microsoft xls files) to another (i.e. Mac pages)
d.    Google Calendar
i. Google allows users to create and view calendars similar to assignment notebooks.  However, these can be viewed from any computer with an Internet connection, they do not cost anything, and they cannot be “lost”
2.    Edmodo
        a.    Accounts
                i. Each student would create their own free Edmodo account.  No e-mail address needed.
        b.    Assignments
                i. Assignments can be turned in online - teacher comments can be posted in response. 
c.    Edmodo Calendar
                i. Edmodo allows users to create and view calendars similar to assignment notebooks.  However, these can be viewed from any computer with an Internet connection, they do not cost anything, and they cannot be “lost”.

3.    Additional web based programs exist that can utilized by teachers within the social studies classrooms. For examples of such websites you can explore http://sites.google.com/site/stealingexplainingtechsites/ - this site provides a wide range of possibilities for the classroom teacher to explore and bring creative innovative units to the student fingertips.

Project Activities:

The Interactive Student Notebook would be replaced with a google.doc shared with the teacher.  This will be where students take notes on in class readings from History Alive!  The 3-subject notebook (where students currently take notes on class discussion, answer daily problems, and create glossary entries for new words) would also be replaced with a google.doc that the teacher would have access to for grading/evaluation/review/support.

When students create presentations/teach lessons/prepare current events they will do so using google.docs (and presentations) so that students will have access in the classroom and on any computer with Internet access, without the fear of losing or being unable to convert the files.  Other resources (Web based programs such as those found on the following website http://sites.google.com/site/stealingexplainingtechsites) will also be incorporated.

Further, classroom blogs (http://elmplacecaveart.blogspot.com/), wikis (https://elmplace6thgradesocialstudies.wikispaces.com/), and curricular websites ( http://www.teachtci.com/programs/enrichment-resources.html) that are already employed will be able to be used to a greater degree because of the access the in-class computers will provide.

Project Evaluation:

This initiative is not replacing the current curriculum, it is only designed to enhance it by giving students access to the technological tools they will be expected to use throughout their academic and careers beyond.  However, we will measure the effectiveness of the initiative by comparing past notes, assessments, and depth of the curriculum covered to years past. Students would also partake in an end of the year survey to evaluate their opinions on the success of the year. If the project is successful, we would propose to implement it in the 7th and then the 8th grade social studies classrooms as well.  If it is unsuccessful, each middle school would have gained a set of iPads for enhancing future education.

The evaluation will based upon several factors. The students will partake in a survey to examine their experience and point of view. In addition, students throughout the process will be evaluated on various assessments ranging from online quizzes and tests, to the creation of presentations, etc. These assessments will be recorded and kept to help evaluate the success of the program.

Project Details:
iPad Centers-

In year 1, 6th grade social studies classrooms will be equipped with 30 iPads. Students will be able to access these computers throughout the lessons. Not all work would be completed on these computers but they would be an essential part of all curricular units. In year 2, this proposal will be expanded to 7th grade social studies classrooms. In year 3, this proposal is completed with the inclusion of 8th grade social studies classrooms. Within this proposal each grade level will achieve 1:1 iPad to student ratio.

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