Welcome to the Technology Page of our website!
Here at Steuart Weller Elementary we are fortunate to have access to many technology programs and are deeply immersed in integrating technology in our curriculum. Our school has four computers in each class, one lab with twenty eight computers, two carts of 22 laptops, and seven Xbox Kinect consoles. We also have interactive whiteboards in each classroom, 60 Neo2 units that allow students to type and share their writing and access to programs that allow for interactive learning. We have a Technology Resource Teacher as well as a Technology Assistant.
We strive to integrate technology in the maximum appropriate manner into the regular classroom curriculum. While the technology department has its own goals and outcomes, we teach those in an integrated manner, rather than as a separate "computer" program. For example, some students learn how to use presentation software so that they can present the results of their social studies classroom research. Fifth grade students learn to use spreadsheets when they analyze and graph the data they collect in science class. Children have online literacy circles, and correspond with peers their own age while they perfect their writing skills.
We are on a constant lookout for grants and funds, as we seek to implement cutting-edge technology in our curriculum. The latest products we acquired via grants and partnerships include Xbox Kinect, Promethean ActiVotes and ActivExpressions, Promethean ActivBoard Touch, partnership for the In2Books Program via United Way, and digital cameras.
Videoconferencing is also an essential part of our curriculum as students work with experts to visit and discuss marine labs, space, and historical sites covering material all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Our efforts were published in the Washington Post, USA Today, District Administration, Loudoun Times, Leesburg Today and Ashburn Patch (http://www.lcps.org/Page/102894
Our department also developed a PD plan for the innovative integration of Promethean technology in the curriculum, plan that was presented to international audiences, and because of which our TRT became a consultant to the Swiss and UK Ministries of Education.
Examples of initiatives we integrated in our curriculum:
1. Reading Across Oceans
At Steuart Weller Elementary in the Loudoun County Public School District in Ashburn, VA, 4th- and 5th-grade students have embarked on a year-long virtual experience that is increasing both their literacy skills and their cultural understanding. In partnership with the United Way, students have access to ePals’ In2Books, an e-mentoring program through which students and their adult e-mentors engage in online conversations about issues in books they read together. They also use ePals to connect with classrooms around the world for free, using programs such as “Reading Across Oceans.” Below is a sample activity that highlights a project the students used with e-mentors in the United Kingdom.
Fifth-grade students paired up with adult e-mentors from London and jointly read a variety of online text accounts about the sinking of the Titanic.
After reading the texts, students and e-mentors exchanged online conversations via the secure In2Books portal, which was closely monitored by the classroom teacher. Both students and e-mentors shared perspectives and background information that were not only relevant to the story of the Titanic, but also helped students understand cultural differences. For example, Ms. Suciu, one of the UK-based e-mentors, described how a specific passenger, Wallace Hartley, played his violin until the ship sank. She also shared how people like him are remembered in the UK as national heroes.
In the process of exchanging information about the Titanic, children were able to learn how to communicate professionally and respectfully, take more time to correct mistakes, write clearly, and find their writing voices.
Students at Steuart Weller culminated their reading activities with a live meeting with their e-mentors via Avatar Kinect. This program allows synchronous meetings via avatars that mimic all movements a person makes, including facial expressions. During these synchronous meetings, both the students and e-mentors discussed ways that both countries could commemorate the sinking of the Titanic.
The “Reading Across Oceans” program has helped students read more effectively, make cultural and personal connections, and learn how to become strong writers and orators.
2. Gesturing to Learn
How do we engage our 21st Century students? How do we help them understand that the material covered in class is relevant to their lives? In his book “Motivating Students to Learn,” Jere Brophy suggests that students learn best when they are actively engaged with the content. Through kinesthetic learning, they develop lasting skills that many times translate into higher levels of student achievement. But how does kinesthetic learning look in a 21st Century classroom? The answer is simple: gesture-based learning. Does this initiative belong to the future? Not according to the 2011 Horizon Report which highlights Gesture-Based Computing as one of the six emerging technologies that will likely enter mainstream use within the next four to five years. The purpose of this session is to identify current technologies that employ gesture recognition, and then present innovative and replicable ways through which these technologies have been used at Steuart Weller Elementary. From turning shy students into persuasive public speakers through Avatar Kinect, to opening a world of possibilities to students with special needs though Kinect Adventures, to saving animal species with partner classrooms across the globe using multiple technologies, to exergaming, children have been immersed in a world of learning that they love. Attendees learn not only what relevant technologies are available, but also how to use these technologies in any curriculum area.
It is exciting to learn at Steuart Weller Elementary, as technology is definitely a quintessential part of everything we do.