Krystina Occhicone 9 April 2008 MD 300 Ed. Tech.

Professor Grignano

On Wednesday, April 2, 2008, I ventured over to 1960 Burr Street in Fairfield, CT to observe Burr Elementary School’s use of educational technology. After having quite a tough time getting in touch with the administration – calling three times and writing two e-mails before finally receiving a call back – I was a little discouraged going into my visit. However, upon arrival, this four-year old instructional facility and all of its personnel blew me away. Right off the bat, I was very impressed with what I witnessed and experienced in front of my own eyes. This left me with an initial feeling that the technology used in this k-5 school would impress me just the same – and I was right. Before I go into detail with Burr School’s specific use of educational technology and how it is utilized within different roles in the school, I believe it is a good idea to first break down the demographics and location. First of all, Burr School is located in suburban Fairfield County with population 900,440 (2006 census). Of the 451 Burr School students, approximately one hundred percent of those students are bussed daily. Demographics: Grade Level K 1 2 3 4 5 Total Number of Students Total Number of Teachers Total Number of Administrators Approximate Number of Students on free/reduced Lunch Program Number of Classes at each level 3 3 4 3 4 3 451 26 (1 per homeroom, Math Resource, Gifted, Art, Music, Instrumental, Gym) 4 (Principal, Instructional Improvement Teacher, Psychologist, Social Worker) .2%

Race/Ethnicity American Indian Asian Indian Black Hispanic White Total Minority (2006-2007) Total Minority (2001-2002 School Faculty:

Number 0 12 6 7 426

Percent 0.0 2.7 1.3 1.6 94.5 5.5 N/A

With that known, I began my Burr School observation. The very unique setup of the school was aesthetically pleasing and fun to tour through. Of the two hours I spent at the facility, I would have to say ninety percent of my time was spent in the Library Media Center. The LMC is staffed with one professional Library Media Specialist, Dorna Persson, one Library Technical Assistant, Diana Beeton, and one full-time paraprofessional. Occasionally, Burr School also has a full-time intern, part-time intern, or ten-week student teacher with them in the LMC. Currently, the LMC is staffed with a part-time intern on top of its entire regular staff. Of the LMC personnel, I spent the majority of my time with Dorna and Diana; two very helpful and sweet individuals the students seemed to love as well. What was a surprise to me was that Burr School did not have even one Computer Lab. Diana explained the reason for that being that Dorna does not believe in teaching in isolation; students should be taught how to do or use something when it is actually time to put it to use. I had never thought about this before hearing it from Diana, but I immediately agreed with this philosophy. Meeting for one computer class only forty minutes a week – as I did throughout elementary school – never made much sense to me. We would learn something one week, not see it again for a whole week or even longer, be expected to remember whatever it was we learned, and reiterate it on command. To me, this is an unrealistic way of learning; no one is going to

remember something they don’t use again and again or in isolation. With that, I think being taught something when it is actually time to put it to use is a very smart way to go about teaching. I will most definitely remember Dorna’s philosophy for my future in education. Linked with this philosophy, Dorna introduced Flexible Scheduling to Burr School. This allows the grade-level teachers to implement educational technology in their lessons or activities on an as needed basis. Each month, Dorna meets with each grade level and the principal to plan what educational technology equipment will be needed and how often each class will need to use the equipment in order to complete their assigned tasks. These committee meetings are held in order to plan the appropriate acquisition and implementation of educational technology the students will need to accomplish their assignments in the best and most appropriate ways. Depending upon what the students are working on, the committee comes to an agreement on how much time is necessary for the students to complete their work. Sometimes students make use of the LMC’s facilities everyday for two weeks straight, one day a week for two months, or really any time frame the committee believes best suits the given assignment. Educational Technology—the Hardware: When I speak about the LMC’s facilities, I am referring to the educational technology hardware that is located there. As I mentioned earlier, there are no computer labs at Burr School, which leaves the majority of the educational technology hardware located right in the LMC. I witnessed six Dell desktop computers and twenty-four stationed Dell laptops in the LMC. The only laptops the school provides for student use are these twenty-four in the LMC, and they are not available for outside of the LMC use. The only problem users ever seem to experience is a loss of wireless connection. The laptops are slightly slower than the desktops, but I don’t know if you would necessarily call that a problem. In each of the classrooms, each teacher has their own

wired desktop computer. On top of that, the lower grades have three wired computers per homeroom, and the higher grades have five wired computers per homeroom – all of which are used on a daily, consistent, and frequent basis. On top of this, Burr School has four SmartBoards – one in the LMC that is portable and three others in classrooms (1st, 2nd, 5th grade rooms) that are wall mounted. I learned that every school is allocated some capital budget – this is what Burr used to buy two or three of their SmartBoards – however, all of the other schools spent their budget on other things. Moreover, recently, the district has just went ahead and purchased SmartBoards for many schools outside of their capital budget. Even though it doesn’t seem as though this is fair to Burr School, administration and teachers can’t really complain because they have so much else. With that, Diana Beeton also told me that they do not plan to implement SmartBoards for all of the classes to have. In addition, Burr School has seven video cameras and ten digital cameras. Each grade level has one of each for their own shared distribution while the rest remain in the LMC for check out distribution. Occasionally, the students and teachers alike work with video editing using Windows Movie Maker. As for TV, VCRS, and DVD players: Burr School has two free standing TVs both with VCR and DVD players – one in the LMC and one in the Music Room. Every classroom in addition to the LMC has a projector with sound system that projects any TV or computer. Besides all of the educational technology I have previously mentioned, available for use at Burr School are: • • • • • Scanners Microphones Headphones Speakers Color Inkjet Printers (One in the LMC plus two in every classroom; one for the students, one for the teacher)

Unfortunately, although the school was recently built only four years ago, the LMC is the only part of Burr School that uses wireless technology. Although Burr School has experienced a great deal of connection difficulty in the past, the school still wishes they had implemented wireless technology throughout the entire school when it was first built. However, regardless of that fact, Diana Beeton told me Burr School does not plan on adding wireless technology throughout the building in the future either. Educational Technology—the Software: Burr School uses a number of major applications software products including: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Windows XP Microsoft Office PhotoJam Hyper Studio Type to Learn Amazing Writing Machine Community Construction Kit Time Liner Kid Pix Photo Story 3 Internet Inspiration Kidspiration Scanner and Camera Wizard

On top of a few other applications besides these most frequently used ones I just mentioned, the desktops of the LMC computers and laptops had a multitude of extraneous icons that never see any use. Of the major instructional software products used, they are strictly to teach and enhance creativity, communication, and presentation. Tutorials and games are not something the students frequently see at Burr School, but they do deal with drill and practice as well as simulation and occasional problem solving in the instructional software. Besides all of this, Burr School uses

Follett online card catalog that is assessable from any computer in the school; however, it is not assessable from home. PLATO and BLUE RIBBON are not something Burr School has ever experienced or plan to experience in the near future. Furthermore, Burr School subscribes to a great deal of online subscription databases, encyclopedias, and e-books. To name a few, students and teachers most frequently make use of: • • • • Grolier Online ICONN (Free from the state of CT) Net Trecker Net Support Protect

Scheduling: As I mentioned earlier, Burr School is on Flexible Scheduling where classes are scheduled for instruction in the LMC on an as needed basis. The Library Media Specialist, Dorna Persson, writes out the schedules herself and is certain that all of the students get the right amount of time they need and deserve in the LMC. Not only that, students are also given Open Access to the LMC at anytime they would like. Everyday students can come into the LMC on their own time and take out books at their leisure or use any of the educational technology equipment that is not already in use. When taking out books, students are not restricted to only a certain amount; they can take out as many as they would like; they are never told they “can’t”. When I first arrived for my observation visit, a second grade class was finishing their day’s work on Kid Pix where they were creating Podcasts. Just after this second grade class made their way out, a forth grade class came right on in. Some students worked individually

while others worked in groups up to four people. This forth grade class was using Photo Story 3 for Windows on the laptops while also making use of the scanner, microphones, headphones, and speakers. Either students scanned or uploaded pictures, opened them in the program, and then made a narration to go along with the picture seen on the current slide. I saw their fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Brill, move from student to student providing answers to questions or just simple words of encouragement while students helped each other as well. The Library Media Specialist and paraprofessional were also working with the students as need be. The room was extremely under control and productive; I was surprised to see not even one student off task – they practically did not even notice me lingering over them. School Facility and Availability of Educational Technology: To touch upon something I have previously said, in the four years since the school has been in existence, the wiring infrastructure has not been updated and Burr School is not intending for any updates anytime soon either. Nonetheless, there is a good deal of “basic technology” available in every classroom. On top of the general PA system, each room has a telephone connecting the classroom to the main office, plus the three to five computers I already mentioned, color Inkjet printers, projector screens, and a school-wide sound system. The LMC also has a few multimedia carts carrying computers, DVD players, CD players, and TVs. From what I have laid out for you thus far, you can see the differences and similarities between the “basic technology” in the LMC and typical classroom. Although a student or teacher can enter the LMC at anytime knowing they will have access to any educational technology they may need, they do have a lot of what they need right in their very own typical classroom as well. Resource and special area teachers also utilize educational technologies at Burr School. Resource and special education rooms have extra large keyboards and larger icons on screens for

visually impaired students; however, the one visually impaired student at Burr School shies away from using the special computers because she does not like to be singled out. There is also surround sound hearing in resource and special education rooms for those sound impaired students. Some teachers even have separate microphones connected to sound towers for those sound impaired students to hear better during regular class time. Funding: Burr School’s technology is ninety-nine percent funded by the district. Earlier I mentioned the capital budget given by the district – that is where a great deal of the school’s technology funding comes from. For instance, the district paid for Burr School’s Office 20002003 editions in the past and next year will most likely fund Office 2007. The other one percent comes from the principal’s capital discretionary funds. I also mentioned earlier the Flexible Scheduling and Open Access education. This type of education is called Linking Learning; it is the school’s vision for the use and implementation of instructional technology. From speaking with the Library Media Specialist, the Library Technology Specialist, and a fourth grade teacher, I heard rave reviews about this type of learning. I think it would be a great idea for more schools to switch over to this learning type. Professional Development and Technology Support: Burr School offers a few professional development opportunities to staff and administrators in the area of educational technology. First, the district provides voluntary summer classes taught by technology professional and teachers. Second, Burr School holds

technology volunteer days. On such days, teachers schedule a half hour to hour block of time with the Library Media Specialist allowing them to learn one-on-one with Dorna about anything they would like to become familiar with. During the time a teacher is with Dorna, a substitute takes over that teacher’s class. The substitute migrates from class to class depending upon which teacher is with Dorna during each block of time. This seems like a very effective way to learn; I think one-to-one learning is the most beneficial, however, teachers have to be willing to learn and able to sacrifice a chunk of class time. Lastly, two of the professional development days a year are designated for technology support and learning. On these professional development days, teachers are able to ask any questions they may have or assistance they may need from technology professionals. Additionally, Burr School has a great deal of technology support from the district. The district has a six-person help desk that anyone at Burr School can report to via a website. After the problem is reported, either the personnel will report back saying what to do to fix the problem on your own or they will send out a professional to come out to the site and fix the problem right away. I was told the technology support was reliable, quick, and easy. Student Learning: Technology is consistently used throughout the education of Burr School students. More importantly, technology is used as a seamless part of lessons at Burr School and it is constantly benefitting the students. Students are able to use the fast, easy, and reliable sources online and on the desktops in order to educate themselves. Technologies give them the chance to become creative and innovative while communicating and collaborating in a multitude of ways. Students are able to teach and learn from each other as well as become more motivated and interested in

what they are learning. Honestly, the benefits seem endless and the reasons behind using technology seem absolutely obvious. Witnessing the fourth grade class making slideshows for their “How is America Today Influenced by Its Past” Project allowed me to see how students can spice up what could have just been a boring term paper. Students are able to familiarize themselves with important technologies that are implemented all over the home, school, and work place, as well as work on their presentation and communication skills while being creative. No two groups of students would be left with the same finished product allowing not only the students to be happier with the project, but the teacher as well. Although the focus of this lesson clearly was for learning and preparing researched material into a presentation, students were also advancing their skills with technology. The focus of lessons incorporate both technology and learning at Burr School. It would have been nice to have witnessed an instance of adaptive technology being used to meet the needs of a challenged student, although I did not get a chance to and was not informed of any adaptive technologies beyond what was used in the resource and special area rooms. Last but not least, while completing my observation at Burr School I witnessed constructivist philosophy guiding the use of technology. The constructivist theory deals with knowledge internalized by learners; constructivism describes how learning should happen. Through processes of accommodation and assimilation, individuals construct new knowledge from their experiences – much like Burr students deal with through their Flexible Scheduling and teachers deal with on their technology volunteer days. Moreover, through the constructivist

theory, when individuals assimilate, they incorporate their new experience into an already existing framework – for example, exactly what students are doing when they learn new, creative presentation techniques to use for their research. Regardless of whether learners are using their experiences to understand a lecture or attempting to design a model, the theory of constructivism suggests that learners construct knowledge. Constructivism as a description of human cognition is often associated with the approaches that promote active learning by doing and this is exactly what I experienced during my school educational technology observation. To sum it all up: After my visit to Burr Elementary School, I left feeling very familiar with their use of educational technology. I did not know how educational technology is utilized within different roles in the school system these days until I got a chance to experience it at Burr School. I realize Burr School is a little ahead of most other schools in their educational technologies, but for that reason, I am happy I was convinced to do my assignment at their school. I actually am upset that I was not able to experience such fun, interesting, and motivating educational technologies as an elementary student, and for that reason, I will be sure to implement the latest and greatest educational technologies in my classroom in order to get the best results and excitement out of my students. The theories regarding the role and function of instructional technology are correct in saying that they really work to motivate, encourage, and interest students more than any other learning approach I have ever seen before.

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