Efficiency and Effectiveness


at Madison Middle School

Stephanie Clapp Professor Grignano MD 300 9 April 2008

Introduction Doing some background checks on Madison before I went on my visit, I found that it was not unlike the middle schools I had attended when I was younger. In a suburban setting, Madison is home to upwards of 850 predominately white students. Only a little over 4% of the students at Madison are on a free or reduced lunch program. The school ranges from grade 6 to grade 8 with a wide variety of subjects offered. The building itself is relatively old, but much of the resources inside are a bit more current. The profile of Madison Middle School on the CT State Department of Education states that of all the subjects offered, only Art, Music, and Physical Education are not technologically supported, which is quite common. Every computer in the building has high-speed internet access and filtering software, and every single room, including the library, computer labs, and classrooms are wired for video, voice, internet, and a schoolwide network. After doing all of this research, I was optimistic that Madison would implement technology in many of their classes to aid students in their learning. I arrived at Madison Middle School on April 4th at 8:00 in the morning. The school seemed relatively quiet since school had begun about 15 minutes before I arrived and all of the students were in class. I went into to office to meet the head of the mathematics department, as she had worked out a schedule for me of classes I would observe over the course of the day. When she was not in the office right when I arrived, the secretary greeted me and offered to page her for me. I looked around for any technology they may have used in the office, and I noticed only one computer at the secretary’s desk and no more. Then, instead of picking up a phone to go over the intercom system, she picked up a hand-held radio device and began to speak into it. Of all of the observations I had been on, I had never seen an office where the intercom

system was run through radios. Later on I realized that these radios projected voice through speakers in the wall to the desired classrooms, but in only seeing one side of it, I was skeptical of how effective the educational technology was at this particular school, because operations in the office were not exactly up to normal standards. The math department head came into the office a few minutes later to show me my schedule. First I would be observing the library media center, then the information processing (Ed Tech) room, and finally a 6th grade mathematics classroom. Before the next class began, the teacher guided me around to the various classes I would be visiting and introduced me to the teachers. Walking around, I could see that Madison was definitely an older building, and walking up to my first destination I was very interested to see what my findings for this observation would be.

Library Media Center I was introduced to the Library Media Specialist, and she introduced me to the Special Education teacher who had her class working on an assignment at the computers set up in the library. They were working on searching the internet for relevant information and pictures on the New Deal and were assigned to make a brochure advertising jobs in the early 20th century. The students were doing most of their searching on Google. Like we have mentioned before, this project would have been much more effective if the teacher set aside a page of links for the students to follow rather than search the endless list of links on search engines when “The New Deal” is typed in, where the information they are collecting may or may not be credible. Nevertheless, the students did seem to enjoy working with the computers, and even though they had the entire Internet at their fingertips, they did stay on-task.

The computers themselves looked extremely outdated, and students were using a fairly old version of Microsoft Works to compose their brochures. There were two newer Dell computers, one for the specialist, and another for the students to look up books in the electronic card catalog. This catalog for the library is accessible to students at home if they plug in their student ID. The Library Media Specialist informed me that the same class had been in and out of the Library for a few days, because their projects were stored on the school network. She did mention that most students had their own thumb drive, but those who did not were not able to work on their projects at home. This is a perfect situation where dropboks.com would come in handy. The way the scheduling in the Library Media Center works is much like most other schools. When teachers know they have a lesson which needs computers, because most classrooms rarely have more than one or two computers, they sign up to use the LMC. The specialist told me that the class working in the center when I observed was the only one signed up for that day. This leads me to believe that those computers and all of the technology in there is not being used as often as it should be. I began asking the Library Media Specialist about other aspects of technology within the library and the school. The Library also had two television sets mounted on the wall and a large Smartboard. When I asked if every class in the building has a

Smartboard, she mentioned that it is a goal of theirs, but limited funding has stunted the process. When asked where the school receives their funding, she only mentioned grants and a technology bond, which lead me to the assumption that the State gives absolutely no funding for technology in education. She pointed out that each floor had two sets of 15 laptops which were wireless that classes rent out. DVD players are also rented out to classrooms as needed. I then asked about digital cameras and camcorders, and I was told that digital cameras are used by the Yearbook staff to take pictures of students, but other than that, there are no classes that use them for projects. I can remember two of my favorite projects I had ever completed in high school involved camcorders and the other involved digital cameras. I still remember everything I learned from those projects because they were so out of the ordinary, and it is disappointing that these students will not get the same experience. In evaluating my day so far, I would say that Madison Middle School had only mediocre effectiveness when using technology in education.

Technology Education/ Information Processing Mr. Martin was one of two information processing teachers at Madison Middle School. I was observing a 7th grade classroom begin a project on creating a database. This class was also using Microsoft on the same outdated computers as I saw in the Library. There are two labs, and each is used alternately every-other day. Regular classes can sign up to use the free lab to work on assignments just like in the LMC. Again, the computer aid that was there along with the technology teacher mentioned that the lab would be tied up 3rd period by a class, and that was it. Again, the assumption can be made that these labs are not being used as often as they should be.

The teacher in this classroom explained a lot about the information processing program at the school, and this program seems to be very effective in using technology and integrating it into education. All students are required to take information processing; however, Madison runs on trimesters, and they have a 2 day system. This means that students have information processing for only one trimester every-other day. The teacher mentioned that this scheduling amounts to only 30 days, which puts a huge limitation of what you can accomplish with the students. The objective of the course is to get students comfortable using computers and standard applications that they will be using daily in the future. Mr. Martin told me some stories of the inexperience of students he had encountered in the past of students using “Tab” to center titles or using “Enter” to double-space. With that being said, the curriculum year-to-year varies by grade. The first year the students are in the lab, they work on drawing and simple word processing. In 7th grade, which is what I was observing, the students focus on databases and continue their work with word processing. Their final year at Madison, students move to advanced word processing, such as how to create a hanging indent for citations and other tools they will undoubtedly need in high school and beyond. Also in 8th grade, students focus on database searching, including topics like Boolean language and other significant lessons they will come across again. I was not as fortunate and had to learn different tools and tricks as I went along, but in preparing students early, they will be that much more comfortable taking advantage of different technologies in the future.

The teacher walked around and stopped at those students who needed individual assistance. He mentioned to me that he has a program where he can pull up any students screen on his own computer to see what progress they are making and give more individualized attention more conveniently for himself. That same program also enables him to do what we do in class, where a teacher can project his screen on the other screens in the lab. There were two television sets mounted to the wall in the computer lab that used to be used for showing general examples to the whole class, but once they got the program, the television sets almost never get used. One piece of information he said he would like to see changed was how the laptops that get passed from class to class work. They are all connected to the wireless network, but there is no main laptop, so the teacher is not able to project his or her screen to each student, which takes away from their learning and from the convenience of using the technology, and therefore takes away from the effectiveness of the overall process. I asked about the classes that come in, and when I mentioned that I am going into mathematics, the teacher said that the teachers he sees the least are those from the math department. He said that it is unfortunate, because you can do so many different things with the math curriculum such as graph, charts, and an endless list of other topics. Students gain enthusiasm for learning from using technology in the classroom, and it is regrettable that mathematics classrooms in Madison are not as exposed to technology as they should be.

6th Grade Mathematics Classroom Upon walking into the first regular classroom I had been in all day, I immediately noticed the smartboard in the front center of the room, simply because students liked to

write on it with their fingers before the class started. There were only two computers in the class, one on the teacher’s desk, and one for the students to use on a side table. Other than these aspects and the intercom and telephone that were in every class, there were no other signs of technology anywhere. The teacher began class by going over their homework. They verbally went over the answers with absolutely no visuals. This may have inhibited many students understanding of questions, especially those who are too shy to ask questions. After correcting homework, students went over a quiz, where the teacher did begin to use the smartboard to correct certain questions that many students answered incorrectly. She was asking the students questions on how to arrive at the right answer, and then would write down what they said to do. I think that this class would have been much more effective if the kids were engaged and allowed to come up and write on the board. The teacher explained to me that the class was a very quiet one, but I feel as though more students would volunteer to answer questions if they had the motivation to write on the board. On both sides of the smartboard was a chalkboard, which looked as though it was only used for announcements and homework that stayed on the board for reminders to students. After the class, I asked the math teacher more about the smartboard and other technology she may use on other days. She did not have any programs specifically for the smartboard, but she mentioned

that she often makes interactive jeopardy games on Excel or takes advantage of different Internet activities can be pulled up at any time. She said that over their April vacation she was planning on doing some searching for other activities she could use. This goes along with the theme we have been noticing all semester—one of the most important aspects of educational technology is awareness and training. Lastly, I asked her if she had every used the computer lab that I had just come from. She mentioned that she had yet to conduct a lesson there, but when they move into their next unit of Statistics, the students will be up in the lab making spreadsheets and graphs to aid them in their understanding of different concepts. Though I did not visit on a day where this class had technology integrated more thoroughly, the teacher made it sound like they use it often enough so it becomes a seamless part of lessons.

Conclusion In comparing Madison Middle School to my own school experience and also to what we have been learning in class, I feel as though Madison is about equal with most schools today, even though the average level is way below where schools should be with all that is available. There were multiple instances throughout the day where a simple program or website could have been introduced to enhance lessons and convenience drastically. With respect to utilizing the technology that is available to them, I feel as though teachers at this school do not take full advantage of the computer labs and conducting lesson plans that involve going on the computer. Though Madison does seem to be making a strong effort to integrate technology into their classrooms, funding seems to be a big issue. The lack of up-to-date technology was apparent, and the absence of other resources like digital cameras and video recorders

cause lessons to remain bland, whereas when students are given these tools to use their creativity, they are motivated to go above and beyond. The students I observed did seem genuinely inspired to learn in using technology, but Madison is nowhere near where they could be if they introduced more programs and exploited other technologies.

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