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Chelsea’s Technology May 14, 2008

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.

This morning, I visited the town of Chelsea, Michigan, to see how their one to one laptop initiative was going in one school in particular, South Meadow Intermediate. Scott Wooster and Joe Tinsley took me on a tour of the school while the kids showed me what they were working on.

Of great note was a shift in the culture of the school that had nothing to do with technology except peripherally. Scott, the district’s Technology Specialist, mentioned that the staff members at his schools are very tolerant of change. They expect it and when it happens they roll with it. This is perhaps one of the most significant changes he has noticed since he first started working with teachers. Joe, the Technology Integration Specialist, agreed with that assessment.

Even though the software changes, basic functions remain the same and the same goes with lesson planning. At the best of times, teachers need to get the content into a more engaging format. Now, with all the sixth grade students carrying laptops, they must also engage digitally.

Of the three major aspects of technology use Chelsea teachers experience, the most important are: 1) Moodle – it is used county-wide and primarily for collaborative projects and shared resources, 2) Digital video – students are doing all sorts of literacy projects using applications such as PhotoStory and MovieMaker, and 3) SmartBoards – teachers at South Meadow are using these tools in each of their classes and are most excited about using the Smart Notebook application for a more seamless integration with the laptops.

The ability of teachers to integrate tools with teaching is the primary motivating factor for the teachers in this school district.

On a side note, a Science teacher told me that she overcame her lack of technology savvy by advocating for herself in the beginning and asking for more time to learn the curriculum, then the tools. Eventually her skill set improved to the point that she is one of the most capable users of the tools.

Finally, one of the sixth grade students shared a great piece of freeware with his whole class and they all mastered it together. http://www.snapfiles.com/download/dlstickfigure.html will allow you to create gif animations that can be placed into a PowerPoint program and then used to tell stories (which can be narrated as well).