At Rockwern Academy, technology is used on a daily basis by both teachers and students to enhance curriculum, engage in research, and broaden our understanding of the world. All students have access to computers and Promethean boards in their classrooms (further information about school hardware may be found in the Technology Services report). Students in kindergarten through sixth grade come to the computer lab for classes one period per week. Students learn basic functions of logging in, saving files, printing, using a browser, keyboarding, and becoming familiar with components of Microsoft Office. These skills are then applied in their core academic classes as technology is incorporated into all subjects.
First grade students are introduced to word processing as they write, illustrate, and narrate their own stories. Second grade students increase their knowledge of word processing as they learn keyboarding using Microsoft Word. They also learn to use Outlook for email procedures. Third through fifth grade students develop an age appropriate proficiency with Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Excel. Skills learned in computer classes allow students to research information, create documents and presentations, and enhance their learning in other subjects. Mavis Beacon Typing is also used in third through sixth grades to reinforce and improve keyboarding skills. Kindergarten students begin to develop a computer vocabulary by learning names of hardware components and how to use them appropriately. Educational games are encouraged to help develop small motor skills necessary to use a mouse. Although we do not own curriculum-based educational software, we use websites such as Starfall.com and PBSkids.org. The new computers in the lab allow students to use a variety of forms of input including touchscreen.
Beginning in fourth grade, students receive their own laptop computers, which they use in all of their academic classes. Keyboarding and research skills are used routinely in several different classes, and typing is required more often as students’ proficiency grows. Other technology skills, such as creating videos or music files, are taught in academic classes as appropriate. For example, students in seventh and eighth grade Social Studies have learned to use applications such as Voki, Animoto, and Glogster to creatively present historical research. A challenge for all teachers is to choose technology applications wisely, including those that truly enhance learning, but not overusing technology when there is no pedagogical justification for it. This requires a significant time investment from teachers.
Rockwern Academy recognizes that most teachers need professional development opportunities to keep up with changes in technology. One use of the faculty in-service days that have been recently added to the school calendar is to provide more opportunities for staff-wide professional development. Sometimes this has involved bringing in an outside expert, such as a trainer from Promethean Planet to help teachers make better use of their interactive whiteboards. Other professional development has come from Rockwern faculty who share their technology expertise with the rest of the staff.