By Carolynne Keenan, Contributing Writer
Philip Evich, a senior at Middletown High School, loves talking about literature, even beyond the allotted 90 minutes of his Advanced Placement (AP) Literature class. That’s why he and his classmates embraced the opportunity to blog about books read in the class.
Evich joined about 10 other students from Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) to talk about technology in the classroom, during the FCPS’s Mobile Technology Lab on April 30 at the Advanced Technology Research Facility (ATRF). Students, teachers, and FCPS representatives visited Frederick area businesses to share how technology enhances education.
Evich, along with Debbie Leonard, his English teacher, discussed the AP Literature blogging platform, which “gives everyone a voice,” Evich said.
“This gives students the freedom to express themselves,” Leonard said. “I’m amazed at what the students have come up with. They’re extremely insightful.” Leonard explained that the blog offers students a chance to think beyond classroom discussions and comment on each other’s thoughts about a particular book.
Leonard’s AP Literature blog is just one of many tablet and computer applications available to some FCPS students as part of Technology Now. The pilot initiative, which launched at the beginning of this school year, integrates technology into the FCPS curriculum in a variety of subjects. Technology Now targets the students’ individual educations by providing direct access to technology.
“The 1:1 Digital Conversion is not a program, but rather a philosophical and pedagogical shift in how we use technology in our schools,” said Steven A. Lockard, Ph.D., FCPS deputy superintendent. “As we try to meet the demands of the 21st century for our students, we need more opportunities for students to be engaged, efficient, and productive.”
“This is the way the world is going”
Kim Brandenburg, a fifth grade teacher at Oakdale Elementary, agreed. “This is the way the world is going,” she said, as she explained how Discovery Education Techbook, one of her science students’ iPad apps, worked at the Mobile Technology Lab.
“Instead of just being words on a page, students get to explore in many different ways,” Brandenburg said. Students can use interactive videos, such as building their own rocks, and even act as amateur detectives to solve a biological mystery, she added.
As students complete assignments, Techbook notifies the teacher, who can then review and share the work with other staff and parents. This quick response also gives the teacher insight into a student’s progress.
Biggest Challenge Is Access
The initiative of bringing technology into the classroom has been successful since its launch last fall. The biggest issue facing the school system is access for all students. “We need to expand to all students and all schools, not just a select few who happen to be lucky enough to be in some of the pilot projects,” Lockard said.
“Bringing technology into the classrooms helps prepare Frederick County students for productive careers, especially in science and health care fields,” said Craig Reynolds, Ph.D., director, Office of Scientific Operations, National Cancer Institute (NCI) at Frederick. “Labs at NCI at Frederick are at the forefront of groundbreaking research, and these labs rely on cutting-edge technology to further scientific discoveries. NCI at Frederick is happy to partner with Frederick County Public Schools to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology.”
While the Frederick County Board of Education and Board of Commissioners are working together to fund Technology Now, the school system also seeks outside funding through business partnerships, grants, and foundations.
Gifts to Technology Now are made through The Community Foundation of Frederick County, which offers a Current Initiatives/Technology for Education Fund, or tech fund, for short. Such donations help provide technological devices such as tablets to Frederick County students.
There are many benefits to providing students with access to technology, Lockard said, listing his top three: the efficiency of bringing the world to a classroom for problem-solving; engagement, as this initiative reaches students who are already intuitive with today’s technology; and equity, which gives every Frederick County student access to technology. At least that’s the plan, he said, to expand the program so all Frederick County students can take advantage of technology enhancing their educations.
“The goal is to put technology in the hands of our teachers and students in every school, so that they can have access anytime, anywhere,” Lockard said. “If we are truly trying to prepare students for success in college and career, then we need to equip them with technology at school.”
For more information, call the office of deputy superintendent of FCPS Steven A. Lockard, Ph.D., at 301-696-6890, or visit the Technology Now website: http://www.fcps.org/TechnologyNow.
Photo captions (top to bottom)
Kim Brandenburg, right, a fifth grade teacher at Oakdale Elementary School, explains to Zhaojing Meng, Ph.D., a protein biochemist in the Cancer Research Technology Program, how Discovery Education Techbook, a science application, works. Techbook offers students a variety of interactive ways to learn about science.
Steven Lockard, Ph.D., deputy superintendent of FCPS (left), and Theresa Alban, Ph.D., superintendent of FCPS (second from left), address employees during the FCPS Mobile Technology Lab visit to the ATRF.
In spite of the dreary weather, students, teachers, and FCPS representatives brought enthusiasm with the FCPS Mobile Technology Lab, which stopped at the ATRF to share how technology is used in the classroom to enrich education, as part of the FCPS Technology Now initiative.
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