Upper Elementary School
West Windsor/Plainsboro Regional Schools Street
75 Grovers Mill Rd.
Plainsboro, NJ 08536 USA
v: (609) 799-0087
f: (609) 520-1376
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; Local commitment to network-based activities; Volunteer contributions of time and energy; Partnerships between public and private sector
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Video; Computer graphic images, such as GIF files; Other (student E- texts to Chernobyl)
The Future is Present with my Students
In reflecting on my life as a teacher in the past year, the Internet played a major role for me and my students. I strive to make my classroom a place where children feel comfortable exploring, and thru the Internet our “playground” is truly global. Communication is the key to everything we undertake, and I want the children to know me as a lifelong learner who enjoys their progress and is unafraid to learn new things before an audience. Knowing one’s limits requires defining boundaries of skill, understanding and imagination. Transcending present limits happens when one becomes motivated, excited by an idea or ability just out of reach, and becomes sufficiently dedicated to disregard the discomfort of inevitable obstacles until they become visible in the rear view mirror!
By choosing the Internet as a focus for my Professional Improvement Plan, unusual, innovative and special programs were inevitable. Among these, Chernobyl, Eagle Excellence, Solar Sailing and Festival Artwork stand out in my mind.
The Chernobyl exercise lasted only 36 hours, but it was profound. On Monday at noon a message came in over the Internet stating that 40 students from the contaminated zone in Chernobyl would be visiting a health spa in England for recuperation, and requested greetings. On Tuesday morning, my first two classes discussed the implications for these children, and used our word processing skills to craft “get well” messages for the children – within 80 minutes, 50 messages had been written, and 30 seconds after we sent them they were in England! The next morning, we received a reply from the two Russian teachers, who clearly were amazed that US children knew and cared about the plight of their students, and proceeded to answer the questions gleaned from our messages. History, science and language arts blended to make a personal sense of current events tangible to our students in a way otherwise impossible and nearly unimaginable!
These communications possibilities were reinforced for students during “Eagle Excellence Night”, when we received over 30 messages from around the world greeting our parents and explaining the wonders that those of us fortunate enough to be connected are becoming familiar with. It included a message from the President of the United States, who has begun to use this technology to reach out to students.
75 of our students have now gained the distinction of having their original computer artwork on display in a worldwide gallery of computer art on the Internet. As part of a project to celebrate all Festivals held in the “winter” (for Northern Hemisphere, that is!), all of our students had the opportunity to write and draw what they enjoy best about this season, and 75 elected to send their art around the world. Using Internet technology, the works were transferred from WWP to Princeton University, and then to North Dakota, assisted by a physicist on vacation in California and me in Virginia!
Solar Sailing captivated 3 sixth grade classes during the initial month of school. Students designed and researched their own original Solar Sailing spacecraft, established jobs and staffing, and joined in with over 50 schools to conduct a simulation on October 18 to celebrate Columbus’s 500th anniversary. We had help from a NASA physicist, and real video footage from space to add to the realism.
The Internet also brought us a guest teacher from Peru. In February, Ms. Gina Higashi spent four days with us demonstrating Spanish Logowriter, and the projects her students in Peru had created. These project were so spectacular that they have raised our sights for what we can aspire to. Both A and B wing students benefitted, as Ms. Higashi taught classes for both wings.
Although it wasn’t easy, the rewards have been great. I have invested over 500 hours learning the intricacies of the Internet, including Unix, configuring hardware and software and gathering resources to use in this project. We currently enjoy a dialup SLIP connection with JvNCnet courtesy of Global Enterprise Services in Princeton, NJ. This allows our networked lab of 26 Apple IIGS machines to send and receive text thru our MAC LC, which is also on the network.
I’ve encouraged parents who are computer professionals to become involved in our program, which has resulted in developing relationships with the NEC Research Institute (Mr. Brad Gianulis), Rutgers (Mr. Mike Sherman) and ATT (Mr. Steve Henderschott), all of whom have communicated directly with students in our classroom. Mr. Gianulis particularly has made his graphics lab available to students for field trips, and assisted with technically advanced image processing. Mr. Sherman has offered auditing privileges to his multi-media seminars.
Unique people/Diverse Needs
I have used the Internet to make contact with Spanish speaking students and had some of our bilingual students write to keypals in Spanish. We have used graphics and Logowriter programs to speak in the universal language of images and mathematics for students who do not yet have sufficient command of English to work exclusively in that language. I have devised individual projects for special needs students to succeed in mainstreamed classes by pairing with other students in a mentor role, or using storymaking software to create success and pride in accomplishment, and opportunities to share these with entire classes. Individualization is the key to meeting diverse needs of students.
Results and the Future
The results have been published in Megabytes, the newsletter of the JvNCnet, the Connecticut Educational Technology Association, the Center for Network Information, and I have presented at teacher training workshops for Princeton University, Global Enterprises Services, the NJ Association for Educational Technology and the NJ Educational Computing Conference.
I have also volunteered to be moderator of the Consortium for School Networking’s Forum on America Online, a nationwide computer service, with the goal of enhancing opportunities for educators and students to harness the unique potential of technology in learning.
Working together, we all will ultimately reach the goal of extending similar opportunities (to those my students enjoyed) to learners everywhere of any age.