AT&T Classroom changes teaching, learning

Megan Whinnery

First-grade students attending class at the Research Center for Educational Technology’s AT&T Classroom had a special present for the classroom’s staff Valentine’s Day.

“It’s a special day, and you’re special people,” first-grade teacher Kate Viers said as she presented a large heart-shaped valentine signed by all her first grade students to Administrative Specialist Frank Seman, Technology Assistant Rodyon Chlysta and Instructional Specialist Patricia Mazzer.

This is the third week students from Michelle Hartman and Kate Viers’ first-grade classes at Crestwood Primary School are attending class at the AT&T Classroom.

The classroom, located in the basement of Moulton Hall, is a place for teachers to bring their students every day for two hours in a six-week study unit of their choice. While the students are busy learning, the classes are observed by researchers and graduate students in an adjacent observation room. Both teachers are using Danas, a type of hand-held technology which allows students to transmit assignments wirelessly.

The goal of hand-held technology is ubiquitous computing, which is defined as anytime, anywhere, anybody computing, said Mark van’t Hooft, technology specialist and senior researcher at the Research Center for Educational Technology.

“What we’re seeing is that having technology available levels the playing field for all kids,” van’t Hooft said. “It’s a pattern based on research and student-work analysis.”

Hand-held technology allows teachers to customize lesson plans to meet the needs of their students and changes the environment for students in several ways.

“Teachers can adjust reading levels on the handheld to kids of different grades and abilities,” van’t Hooft said. “Technology impacts kids’ motivation. It changes how kids collaborate with other kids. Kids are more engaged in their environment because they can take technology into their world.”

Van’t Hooft, along with two teachers who have brought their classes to the AT&T Classroom, demonstrated their units of study and the hand-held technology they integrated into the areas of study at the eTech Ohio State Technology Conference last week. The conference is the largest educational technology conference in Ohio and was held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

“The AT&T Classroom will have a profound impact on what schools will look like in the future,” van’t Hooft said. “We won’t be confined by the 8 (a.m.) to 3 (p.m.) classroom boundaries.”

The convergence of technology will continue to impact the way teachers teach and students learn, he said.

“It’s like a digital Swiss army knife,” van’t Hooft said of its versatility.

Of all the technology the students use, the favorite remains the Kid Pix program on the laptops, Mazzer said. The program allows users to stamp shapes, create backgrounds, draw, color and paint.

Both Viers and Hartman’s classes are learning about superstructures by comparing the structures in chicken eggs to those in human skeletons.

“The teachers are doing an excellent job integrating technology into the superstructures unit,” Mazzer said. “The students are picking up technology quickly and learning fast.”

Contact academic computing reporter Megan Whinnery at [email protected]