A Progressive Approach to INTEGRATING Education Technology [Techniques]
(Techniques Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Do you ever have the feeling that with rapidly changing technology your students are driving the bus and you are holding on for dear life Well, at Southwest Career and Technical Academy (SVVCTA) located in Las Vegas, Nevada, we feel that way more often than not. However, my faculty and I understand that operating a 21st-century school will always be that way - after all, they are the digital natives and we are the immigrants. From the day we opened the school in August 2009, we have embraced a progressive approach to integrating technology into all our classes. Looking back over the last three years, SWCTA has evolved with its students, and we have found success in our use of education technology. Here is how our story unfolded.
A Snapshot of Our School
Four years ago, SWCTA opened with 700 freshmen and sophomore students enrolled in 11 different program areas. And since that first day of school, I have walked the halls each day, visited classrooms and enjoyed watching us grow from year to year. As I walk the campus today, I observe 1,474 students happily participating in their education. Our hospitality students are busy communicating with community members about their upcoming event being held in the Coyote Banquet Room. The culinary students are preparing lunch for participants in a district-wide professional development training program. In the next building, our web design students are presenting a website they built for a non-profit group who is their "client" for this month. The video game development students are across the hall using motion-capture tools, animation programs and game engines to build their senior capstone projects.
I walk out of the IT building and into the engineering building. The entertainment engineering students are busy using a computer numerical control (CNC) machine with their career and technical education (CTE) and physics teachers to cut out electric guitars. Across the hall, the interior design students are planning their spring project to assist Habitat for Humanity in building a house for a family in need. In the next building, students in our Fashion Design Program are busy designing costumes for a local charity event. Opportunity Village's annual Magical Forest. I leave the fashion program to visit the automotive technology facility where the students are applying physics principles during a hands-on engine lesson.
The final destination on my tour around campus is the health sciences building. The first activity I see when I walk in the door is students in dental chairs getting dental impressions of their teeth by their peers. I'd talk to the students in the chairs, but they have their mouths full of putty! My next stop is the certified Nursing Assistant Program. The students are moving a mannequin from a bed to the restroom to simulate the process for transferring an elderly patient in a retirement home. Up last is the Respiratory Therapy Program. On this day, the students are not utilizing the isolation room for patients, but instead they are busy earning CPR certification.
This is a small sampling of the learning that occurs on our campus. Our students participate in a multitude of servicelearning projects, job-shadowing and internship opportunities, as well as taking advantage of the ability to earn up to 21 college credits and a variety of CTE certifications. Technology makes these 11 programs even more engaging!
Our first year we tried our hand at the integration of a learning or course management system, Moodlc. We wanted to use it in all our classes to create a virtual learning environment and for digital portfolio development. After a year of technical difficulties and a huge learning curve, we looked for a more teacher-friendly platform to invigorate our use of technology and project-based learning (PBL). Our second year, we began using Google Apps for Education to embed Google calendars into teacher websites created with WordPress. The calendars and websites were easy for the teachers to maintain, and the staff was excited to expand their teaching capabilities.
Also during our second year, our web design, video game development and engineering classes began using Google Docs. By the middle of the year, the students were encouraging their teachers to start using Google Docs. An English teacher walked in my office and told me the story of a student asking if he could share his essay with him in a Google Doc. Until the student asked him, the teacher had not realized that a dozen students had already shared their work with him through a Google Doc! I directed him to one of the teachers who could teach him how to edit shared documents, and he immediately began using this tool to provide feedback, encouraging his students to turn in their assignments through shared Google Docs. By the end of the school year, the majority of our teachers had been trained to use Google Docs, and they began experimenting with it (Figures 1 and 2).
That same year, the iSchool Initiative YouTube video that featured a 17-year-old student advocating for the use of technology in his school inspired a 1:1 iPod program for our junior class. We didn't have seniors yet, so this was our pilot group. The 1:1 iPod program was very successful. Teachers were reporting that classroom discussions never stopped, students were taking notes and using a variety of apps to help them study and organize. Every time I looked around, students were discovering a new use for the iPods. One day, my broadcast journalism students were using it as a teleprompter, and on another day, my CADD students were using them as levels. The list of uses was proving endless. At the end of the pilot year, one of my web design students almost cried when she discovered she had to turn in her iPod for the summer. It was her only device and she did everything on it, including college and scholarship applications and searches. We quickly created a form for students who wanted to check them out over the summer. That same student became our first valedictorian and is currently enrolled at Syracuse University, majoring in information management and technology.
The following year, the 1:1 iPod program evolved into the 1:1 i Pad program for juniors and seniors. Also, wc created Google Apps for Education accounts for all students. The faculty and the students embraced it. With 1 1 different CTE programs, iPads and iPods are used differently in every program and core class. The rapid growth and usage of Google Docs has taken us by surprise and inspired all of us to use it more. Have you ever shared a Google Doc with someone, worked on a collaborative project without being in the same room, or received an edited document where you can make real-time changes and not have to email it back and forth several times It's a very unique experience. I wrote this article using Google Docs and shared it with my teachers to provide feedback and help me edit it.
This is our fourth year of operation, and it is evident that we have established a positive learning and technology-rich culture. Teachers regularly collaborate and present new ideas related to technology. If there is new training or a tutorial, teachers are provided with the time and/ or resources to experience it. As an example, over the summer we sent teachers to state and national technology conferences, (lipped classroom conferences and Vernier science lab trainings (the new labs can be accessed through the iPads). Over half our teachers attended webinars or local professional-development sessions for a multitude of trainings. These teachers came back to school and provided professional-development training to our entire faculty before the start of school.
The Evidence Speaks for Itself
What evidence do I have regarding a positive and technology-rich culture Our staff development day in October was dedicated to a variety of educational topics and slate and school district initiatives. We spent very little time on technology that day. When I sent out the agenda for that day, I had several teachers communicate they were sad they were not being used as education technology professional-development presenters on that day. They were that eager to present. My heart almost burst with joy! Needless to say, I had them in the rotation for the November staff development training where they combined technology with our state and district initiatives. And did I mention that we also use reverse mentoring Our students attend our staff development and professional-development trainings. We train our students in the latest technology because they quickly become the experts. The teachers appreciate the individualized instructions that they receive from the students, and the technology ball keeps rolling forward.
Incorporating Learning Management Systems
In addition to Google Apps for Education, our teachers, by choice, have begun to use two learning management systems schoolwide, Edmodo and Schoology. Through the use of learning management systems, teachers and students are able to extend the length of the school day. Students have access to their assignments and notes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing them to communicate with their instructors and their peers outside of class. This is essential for collaboration because our students live throughout the Eas Vegas valley and to meet al a central location outside of school is not always feasible. Essentially, all the teachers have the ability to flip their classrooms by using technology to preview and set the basic framework for the next day's lesson. As a result, teachers are reporting that they have more time in class for individualized instructions; deeper, critical-thinking discussions; and hands-on instruction and labs.
The collaboration and the sharing of new ideas does not end with the teachers. Students are encouraged to collaborate, provide input and share ideas as well. Students request the addition of apps for installation on their i Pads and identify uses for the technology that was beyond our initial purpose, and they are encouraged to do so. I was recently copied on an email from a student to an upper-level school-district employee. The student is in our Video Game Development Program and he is working on his senior capstone. He is creating a 3D video game and has researched the best program to assist him in his development of the game. It is a free web-based program. The problem is that it is blocked by our internet filters. The email he wrote requested permission to access the site. With 30 seniors developing video games, this is one example of a proud moment where students are invested in their education and are advocating for themselves. He is not waiting for a teacher to advocate for him. He understands that in the real world, it is up to him.
Our journey into the great unknown world of innovative education technology is ongoing. Our teachers and students are always looking for the next great idea or the latest app, software or technology. I enjoy my role as a facilitator and marvel at the collaboration and interaction between the two groups. We make it work with collaboration and communication. If you are contemplating swimming in the deep end of technology or getting ready to dive in headfirst, enjoy the never-ending journey. It is worth it.
Southwest Career and Technical Academy is a comprehensive magnet high school that offers 11 distinct program areas of study. To find out more about SWCTA, visit www.swcta.net.
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Felicia Nemcek is the principal of the Southwest Career and Technical Academy, an Apple Distinguished School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2013 Association for Career & Technical Education
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