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Staying ahead of the curve

Students at Union Hill are creating Podcasts, designing Web sites, making their own movies and even composing the background scores as their teachers increasingly brinPhoto:3369699,left;g the use of computers into the daily lessons.

Two Union Hill teachers, Michelle Riley and Laura Allender, have become so proficient at using technology in the classroom that they recently shared their secrets with an audience of teachers, administrators and college professors at the TechEd Conference in Los Angeles.

Riley and Allender had to audition for the presentation.



“It was quite an honor… and the audience was very receptive,” Allender said. “Some people came up and asked how they could incorporate what we were teaching students in their own classrooms.”

The presentation at the conference was called “The best of the best technology has to offer,” Riley said.




Their presentations included four elements that they use in the classroom every day, Riley said:

• Social bookmarking, a Web-based service that bookmarks favorite Web sites in one directory housed online.

• United Streaming, a digital library of more than 40,000 images and videos by Discovery Education.

• Connected Newsletter, a monthly publication of technology integration ideas for the classroom.

• Apple Remote Desktop, network computer management software.

Union Hill has three computer labs: One for fourth through eighth grade students with 33 computers; one for fourth through sixth graders with 32 computers; and one for kindergarten through third graders with 20 computers. All the computers are Macintosh.

“We also have mini-labs in eight of our classrooms, which have five Mac computers each,” Fredrickson said. “Every teacher has a computer. Starting next school year, each teacher will have his or her own Web site.”

Union Hill has spent at least $100,000 to integrate technology into the school’s daily curriculum, according to Fredrickson.

“Our parent-teacher club has raised money for the purchase of technology,” he said. “Most of our development budget has gone into training. Our school site council has allocated money (for it). It’s certainly been a focus for our spending.”

So what’s the use of cramming so much technology into children’s heads?

“When you teach them young, they understand the tool technology is,” Riley said. “In later grades, they can apply that tool to do classroom projects as well as their own learning.”

However, there are challenges to overcome while explaining sophisticated software to elementary school students.

“The challenge of teaching the younger grades is that they want it fast and now, because that’s what they are used to with their PlayStations and Nintendos,” Riley said. “We have to keep them engaged with learning with tools that are as exciting as their PlayStations.”

There’s also the challenge of staying up-to-date with new technology, Allender said.

“The challenge is to be innovative and creative, incorporating technology while teaching the state standard (curriculum),” Allender said.

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To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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