As technology changes rapidly, our students are able to keep up and participate in many new opportunities as a result of having access to technology and knowledgeable teachers.
—Carol Smith, CMS science teacher
Vita-Learn seeks to encourage teachers to push their own comfort levels and boundaries as they utilize the many technology tools available, and it celebrates teachers utilizing technology in order to prepare students for real-world situations.
Carol Smith, who has been with CMS since 1994, is one of only thirty teachers around the state recognized by Vita-Learn this year for working to incorporate classroom technology in meaningful ways for the benefit of students. She will participate in a round-table discussion with educators from around the state in Montpelier next month, during which time, the participants will share the projects and innovations for which they were nominated in order to bring back new ideas for further technology implementation to their schools.
“Our teachers are making efforts to utilize classroom technology, and we continue to seek innovative, real-world, meaningful ways to ensure that Colchester Middle School students are prepared with the technology skills they will need in college and in their potential careers,” she said.
The particular project that sparked Ms. Smith’s nomination was an outgrowth of a summer graduate course, “Google Tools for Schools.” Ms. Smith said, “As a result of needing to better address the Common Core State Standards in reading and writing, I designed a Google Site that housed an entire research project electronically. Students had choice of an essential question concerning reintroducing endangered species into Vermont or protecting against non-native species. I pulled together multiple media sources so that each student in the class had a different species to read or view as they became experts. Each seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher and special educator also contributed articles and media sources; hence, it fostered collegiality and collaboration within our department. Students conducted all of their work using our new Chromebooks, which allowed them to easily use the Google Tools incorporated in the project. They created Google Presentations … and students even used an app currently in beta production that allows users to visually record themselves discussing their project while displaying their electronic projects. These were shared with one another as a way of learning about each of the different species. Furthermore, I connected with a colleague teaching in the Palm Desert region of California … ultimately, our classes did a Google Hangout [which is similar to Skype] to share projects, meet one another, and compare Southern California and Vermont. It was 25 degrees here that day, and we laughed when we heard them complain that it was so cold there at 60 degrees!”
She further explained, “The project was collaborative among both students and teachers, and it offered choice, used multiple different types of technology, met multiple Common Core State Standards, and extended beyond our school and immediate community. All CMS seventh graders participated in the project with their science teachers; therefore, it met the requirements of innovative and transformational. Students used multiple technology applications, learned about real-world issues concerning species in their state, took positions about those issues, collaborated with one another outside of the classroom, and worked globally with another class across the continent.”
Ms. Smith is also part of CMS’s original “Google Team” and has participated in coursework to become familiar with the many, many Google apps and programs and their direct applications to instruction. “CMS piloted and is now taking the lead on incorporating the Google domain, and it features in our curriculum and daily instructional practices,” she said. “Students receive and submit work electronically. They also collaborate online in real time with peers. As technology changes rapidly, our students are able to keep up and participate in many new opportunities as a result of having access to technology and knowledgeable teachers.”
This is not the first time that a CMS teacher has received this honor. CMS’s Jennifer Roberge was honored at the 2013 Project IGNITE Recognition Luncheon for her leadership in implementing Google Apps for Education at CMS (to read more about that, please click here).
The Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017’s pathways include Pathway A: High Standards, Expectations, and Individual Engagement for All Learners; Pathway B: Technology Infrastructure and Integration; and Pathway C: Learning Outside Our Four Walls. There is a lot of forward momentum in our schools on these fronts. Furthermore, the Vermont Technology Grade Expectations outline major focus areas in education, and among them are digital citizenship and technology operations and concepts, so this work is particularly meaningful and relevant. (To read an earlier Spotlight article discussing other efforts in technology integration around Colchester School District, please click here.)
Congratulations, Ms. Smith and Colchester Middle School!
For more information, please contact CMS at (802) 264-5800, or e-mail Carol Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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