A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting The 4 / 5 Academy at Fifth Avenue in Decatur for the day. That’s where our guest blogger Sandi Dennis is the Media and Instructional Technology Specialist. I spent the day to observe how a school is integrating technology in its daily routine and to share some of their practices with you.
The 4 /5 Academy at Fifth Avenue is a school in the City Schools of Decatur charter district. Fourth and fifth grades are taught there only. It’s an international baccalaureate school. Close to six hundred students are enrolled there. Technology is used seamlessly in some of the simplest and easiest ways. Says Mrs. Dennis, "Our principal Bruce Roaden is a true supporter of our technology and media program. He is a progressive thinker and is always willing to implement new technologies to improve student engagement and achievement."
Here is what I observed.
Typically students fill up the gym for assembly or spelling bees which is what was taking place when I visited. The Multi-Purpose Room was used for a live audience at the event, and classes that were unable to attend the live spelling bee could watch from their classrooms. How? To make sure all students could participate, the tech team at 4 /5 beamed the spelling bee to the classes via livestream. They set up a camera in the gym and videoed the event. The school uses a proprietary program for the livestream. This is a regular practice though. And this could be a good solution for other schools - to broadcast events when there is limited space for all students to attend in person.
The spelling bee was livestreamed to the entire school.
Nooks are the tablets offered by Barnes and Noble book stores. The school has 30 of them for students to check out. One of the reasons why they chose the Nook is because it isn’t preloaded with obvious access to the Internet or games. The Media Specialists curate the books that are put into the Nook. The students can sign out the Nooks using iPads.
In a couple of months, the school plans to pilot a one to one iPad program. But the students there are already using iPads in multiple ways. They use iPads to look up books in the library and check them out.
Ms. Eber teaches a lesson on the federal government using the iPad.
In the classroom, I observed how Ms. Alison Eber wove iPads into a lesson on the branches of government. Students were advised to used their iPads to find informational apps that provid articles and examples of the branches of the federal government in action. News apps like CNN and PBS were allowed. Then they had to highlight passages of their articles on the iPad and use a graphic organizer to take notes.
It was great to see how the students were making critical decisions on what apps were appropriate and what apps were not to find the information they needed. Ms. Eber guided that process with a gentle hand.
The morning announcements aren’t broadcast over a loud speaker system with an old microphone anymore. Every day Sandi Dennis records a short news broadcast using iMovie. It includes the pledge of allegiance, a quiet moment for reflection and educational videos and slides. Teachers and students can submit pieces to be added to the video ahead of time.
Mrs. Dennis adds these videos into iTunes. Teachers play it for the classes at their leisure. There is no pressure to make sure the class is settled in the morning at a specific time to “listen” to the morning announcements en masse.
Mrs. Dennis encourages digital literacy through a junior media specialist program. One of their assignments is to blog from the point of view of their pets. This exercise teaches the students how to write in third person. Weebly.com is the tool used for this as it's very simple and teachers get 30 accounts.
Mrs. Dennis also gives special presentations to the classes. This month she gave lessons on digital citizenship that included a unit on netiquette.
How is your school integrating technology in its daily routine? Please share your examples with us. If we can, we'll come out and do a profile of your school too!