The Difference Technology Make
A matter of the heart and soul...
The Difference Technology Makes
By: Hollye Knox-Green
1994 Texas Computer Educator of the Year
As I look back on the years I have been teaching, and think about all the students I have had the privilege to teach, one student clearly demonstrates the difference a technology-based curriculum can make.
I entered my classroom one day three weeks after school had begun and there sat a chubby, big-boned, 5' 10" blond haired kid. I had seen him in the hall, but had not known who he was or his background. I asked Mama June, the special education teacher assistant, what he was doing in special education because I hadn't recognized him as a special education student.
Mama June said he was having problems and that the principal would tell me later about the situation.
Paul was sitting at my computer working on a computer reading program he had never seen before. He was totally engaged and oblivious to the rest of us in the classroom. I simply let him continue what he was doing and waited for instructions on what to do about him.
The principal came in shortly and explained that Paul was having terrible problems in his classes. He wouldn't do any of his assignments, he couldn't get along with his teachers, and he was failing horribly. Paul had become so frustrated that he left school that morning and began hitchhiking. The principal picked him up and asked him where he was headed. Paul said that he was going to Houston to work on the pipeline.
A quick solution to the problem focused on getting Paul into a different atmosphere. He had dropped out of school at a neighboring district and his parents had enrolled him at my school in hopes he would find a supportive environment in which he could stay and graduate.
The completion and qualifications of special education paperwork and testing officially allowed Paul to become a permanent member of our resource family. His reading abilities ranged from a second to third grade reading level, and his math skills topped out at a fourth grade level. I quickly learned that several negative experiences in the classroom throughout his school life had led him to to a point of indifference and intense hatred toward school. He certainly couldn't work with higher level instructional materials.
Paul was in my class for five hours each day. His daily schedule included English, math, two hours of vocational classes, and working as a teacher aide for me. His other classes outside of my classroom included keyboarding and agriculture. My first step was to start Paul out on an independent instructional level where he could do everything I asked with success thus building his self confidence.
I assigned him simple math charts to do on the computer and showed him how to graph these charts. I allowed him to type his assignments on the computer and add graphics to his work. We drilled, practiced, and played educational games, -anything that encouraged him to want to learn. His favorite games included Math Blasters and Oregon Trail. I once had to recopy several old Oregon Trail floppies and asked him to test each one to make sure they worked. I think he could have made a living testing that program!
At the end of the day, Paul would dust the computer lab, clean the monitors, vacuum, and take out the trash. He ran errands for me, and he became quite adept at formatting floppies, creating data disks for others, reloading the paper in the printers, and working with the elementary students who needed help with programs such as Kid Pix, Reading Maze, and Number Maze.
I noticed that Paul had begun to laugh and smile. A certain twinkle in his eyes could be detected. I once used a video camera to tape him in a laughing session for eight minutes. He got tickled about something and started laughing. He couldn't stop, and soon everyone in the room was laughing at him laughing. We all laughed until our sides hurt.
Paul became popular with his peers, and his attendance increased. I jokingly told him that ever since he came to my classroom, I couldn't get rid of him. I would send him on a mini-mission to deliver some paperwork to the principal and he would always come back. That sparked another round of laughter.
Even more unbelievable, Paul came over 25 miles one way to school every day. His parents would drive him to school, and often he would get a ride back home from a friend, or he would call his parents to pick him up. After he got his license he would borrow his parent's car if he could. Some days, though, when he didn't have a ride home, he chose to "thumb a ride." Mama June picked him up on the side of the road one time and got him home safely.
At the end of the first six weeks grading period I handed Paul his report card. As he looked at it a big smile spread across his face. He told me, "This is the first time in a long, long time I hadn't failed anything."
I told him he was doing a good job, and that I wanted to see the one "C" that he had made turn into a "B" next time.
He kinda shrugged and said, "We'll see."
I knew Paul was ready now for the next step. Understand that Paul was a volatile, emotional kid. If he became frustrated he would explode, and I found if I pushed him too hard, he would become red-faced, tell me he was headed for the house, and leave the classroom. I learned to cope with this. He would walk out of the classroom without permission to the front of the school and sit on the front steps. I would call the secretary and told her that Paul had blown up, and when his time-out period was up, to send him on back. He would return to the classroom renewed and ready to start again as if nothing had happened.
I concluded that Paul had mastered most of the basics with the computer and decided to teach him a new program which would make slide shows so he could give presentations in English and his vocational classes. Working on Career Profiles, I asked him what type of career he wanted to pursue. Naturally, he had never put much thought into it, so I rounded up several occupational handbooks for him in order that he could start learning about different jobs. I gave him an outline to follow where he could fill in the blanks. After the completion of the outline, we started working with Aldus Persuasion. He typed his outline into the computer program and I showed him how to make that outline come alive by importing various backgrounds, templates, and graphics.
Paul was totally enthralled by the program. He completed a slide show on firefighting and oceanography careers, and promptly wanted to do every assignment using Persuasion. I allowed him to develop several presentations, then asked him if he would teach the speech class how to work with the program so they could develop slide shows to go with their speeches. Paul became a master critic of slides. He would examine the colors, textures, graphics, fonts, and content of each slide anyone produced with the greatest of detail.
He learned how to import QuickTime movies into his slide shows and work with more advanced techniques. I suggested he select one piece for entry into the state multimedia contest. He decided that the Career Profile on firefighters was his masterpiece, so I sent his program and three other student programs to the judges hoping we would receive good news at the end of the year.
Using the Texas Education Network, I uploaded several student slide shows, including Paul's work, and electronically mailed them to our Regional Service Center's education technology specialist, Mike Campbell. Mike previewed the programs and gave the students feedback on their work. I also sent the programs to an anonymous ftp site, sumex-aim.stanford.edu, so people across the globe could enjoy the slide shows.
Any type of feedback from those who surf the Internet always motivates the kids, and Paul was enchanted when a Vietnamese professor working at the University of Sidney, Australia, e-mailed him praises on his work with the multimedia program.
By the end of the year Paul had accomplished more than any student I had. He had regained his self-confidence, and he passed all his subjects. He steadily improved throughout the year, and by the end of April was reading on about a seventh grade level and doing math on a six grade level. He and another student designed and completed a student database for our small rural school, and he had learned and used several other software programs including HyperStudio, Cinemation, and HyperCard.
I believed in Paul and his abilities. We had our ups and downs. We had a few verbal disagreements. He needed an environment that would ensure him that he could be successful. He needed hope and a structured atmosphere which would allow him to learn using different methods and strategies. The technology-rich atmosphere that he had stumbled into allowed him to become successful; it brought positive changes into his life, and gave him back an enthusiasm for learning.
The day came when I received the results of the state multimedia contest. This large brown envelope contained a certificate with Paul's name on it. It held a special honor for a special education student once headed for Houston to work on a pipeline. Paul became a "BEST IN STATE" multimedia computer-presentation winner.
I will never forget Paul's smile that day when he received that individual recognition. I am not even going to worry about Paul having a successful future. I know he will.
Discipline, subject : education
Public : cycle d'orientation
Sek I, BWK
lower high school
Rt. 1, Box 74A
Tel : (800)378-2599
Fax : (800)378-2599
Pédagogie, pedagogy :
Apprentissage, learning : A rural school provided a technology-rich environment to a learning disabled student who was ready to dropout of school. A real-life, meaningful curriculum and nontraditional methods of teaching were used to provide this student with the hope and positive atmosphere he needed to ensure he would be successful in the future.
Enseignement, teaching : A creative and innovative approach to working with this student, and a wide-variety of software and nontraditional teaching methods were used to make learning something to be desired rather than something to be endured.
Technique : It has been noted that "presentation software tools" work well with learning disabled students. especially when the work they produce can be entered in state competition.
Société, society : This student's increased self confidence and ability to become more than what he ever thought he could become, helped him to learn that just because he had a learning disability, he could, with lots of hard work and a new attitude, overcome his handicap. This certainly helped him develop worthwhile social skills.
Culture : This student was given the opportunity to work with telecommunications and keypal to students around the world. Much of his multimedia work was shared on the Internet, and many educators e-mailed him on the extraordinary work he had created.
Institution : A computer was always available to this student when he needed to work on specific projects.
Logistique : This student had the technology and tools available to him with a teacher dedicated to using new tools and teaching in new ways.
Remarques, remarks :