On a recent day, several students at Fountaindale Elementary School for the Arts and Academic Excellence were researching topics online or working on websites such as Glogster to show what they had learned.
In addition to creating the board game, Crystal had a writing assignment to explain what she did and why.
If they want to do so, students can turn in a written paper about their projects, but most prefer to turn in their assignments virtually, often using Glogster to create interactive posters that feature videos, documents and podcasts about the subject they are studying, said Tack, who is the school system’s nominee for an Outstanding Educators Using Technology award.
Tack is piloting My Big Campus, a social networking site for schools that enables him as well as students to comment online on students’ projects. It holds their research, blogs, email and more, he said.
His students also build websites through Weebly. In some cases, a student will have five Weebly websites, one that is an overall portfolio of his or her work and others for specific projects, he said.
Finding the funds
The school system supplies desktop and laptop computers to every school for teachers to use in their classrooms, although not at the same time, Hammann said.
Beyond the traditional computer lab, there are carts of mini-laptops that teachers can, on request, use for class, Hammann said.
“Our goal is to get every teacher with the same level of technology,” Hammann said.
But the school system’s technology budget, like that of other departments, was cut in the last three years due to the lagging economy. As a result, some of the recently acquired hardware, such as iPads or electronic classroom boards, has been purchased through grants or donations from groups such as PTAs, Hammann said. He said he expects the technology budget to stay level for the upcoming fiscal year.
The declining technology budget has motivated several teachers to look for technology funding elsewhere, Hammann said.
“Every little bit makes a difference,” said Hammann, who said $500 can go a long way if a teacher needs a set of iPod touches. iPod touches are the size of a cellphone and can make video calls; shoot video; have Internet access; and can store music, apps and more.
One source of money for technology has been Washington County Public Schools Education Foundation’s minigrants. The spring grants included $814 for fitness technology at Eastern Elementary School and $1,000 for an electric strings program at Springfield Middle and Williamsport High schools.
At Eastern Elementary, physical education teacher Rich Secrest is using the $814 grant to buy two Xbox 360s with Xbox Kinects. These devices can read up to six players at a time and, since the players’ bodies serve as game controllers, the students have to move, he said.
Secrest said he was looking for a form of technology that students could be active while using.
In addition to helping battle childhood obesity, much of what physical education teachers do centers around lifelong fitness, Secrest said.
Secrest said he hopes to have the Xboxes set up for students to use before the school year ends. Special education children also will use the Xboxes.
Tools for teachers