Friday, January 9, 2009

KHS Selects 2009 Keystones Technology Integrator

Tenth grade English teacher Kathy Rutkowski has been chosen to represent Keystone High School in the 2009 Keystones Technology Integrator program sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. According to PDE, a technology integrator is:
a classroom teacher who fully utilizes the many benefits technology offers to improve instructional practices across his/her content areas. In doing this,the teacher does not focus on the technology itself; rather, s/he focuses on student learning and uses technology as a tool to support this end.
Kathy, who is also a "Classrooms for the Future" teacher, submitted the following essay as part of the application process. Next, she will submit a multimedia sample of teacher and student work. If selected as a state-level Keystones Technology integrator, Kathy will be invited to participate in a five-day summit at Bucknell University in July.

Kathy's essay:
Bringing technology into my traditional tenth grade English class has changed just about everything. From enhancing students’ reading comprehension and critical thinking, to improving their writing fluency and enabling collaborative editing and revising, to allowing them to share their ideas with the world – it’s just not the same old same old anymore. Here at Keystone, the interactive whiteboards and projectors along with student and teacher Mac Books we received from Pennsylvania’s Classrooms for the Future grant program have made all these changes possible.

As we began our Metamorphosis unit this year, student groups researched background topics ranging from Kafka’s biography to Existential philosophy, then loaded their information onto our Wikispace to make it available to their classmates. They are able to access this information any time and anywhere they need it as they work toward making connections between what Kafka wrote in 1912 with historical events of that time, understanding philosophical and artistic movements that inform his writing, and building an appreciation for the ways The Metamorphosis and its lessons have relevance to their lives and today’s world. I found that posting to the Wiki resulted in more comprehensive research results as students became motivated by what they saw others doing. With ready access to the Internet we can also do on-the-spot research as needed to clarify our thinking. We then use our class blog as a discussion forum that we will continue to use over the course of the year to build on what we learn.

In addition to discussion, students use our blog to improve writing fluency, as well as to gain competency with conventions and sentence and paragraph structure. Again, I have found that students write more and with better focus, development, and style when they blog as opposed to generating pencil/paper responses to the same study questions. They love seeing their posts and comments on the Internet, knowing that others can read what they write anywhere in the world. I constantly find them checking the ClustrMap to see if anyone from another country has read our blog. So far our only foreign reader has been from Canada, but who knows what the future holds?

Technology has allowed me to create collaborative opportunities for editing and revising papers using Track Changes in Microsoft Word. We’ve also revised as a class with one student paper displayed on the white board. In my research paper unit this year, groups of students will be using Google Docs to write collaborative research papers. This will allow stronger academic writers to pair with struggling writers and lower the anxiety level often associated with this most difficult of high school writing assignments.

Finally, using Podcasts and IMovie, IPhoto, and Garage Band, students have brought their writing to life, acted in their own films, created original works of art and photo essays, and written their own songs. Access to technology has allowed me to differentiate assignments according to my 21st Century learners’ skills and preferences as never before. My classes are more productive and engaged, and I know I am a better teacher.

How has technology changed the way you do business in your classroom? Please comment below.

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