Multimedia takes a key role in District 15
Is it time to rethink the computer lab concept?
Mike Baker, Technology Coordinator at Palatine Township Elementary District 15, thinks it is. "Our schools are starting to move out of the lab mindset," says Baker. "Our focus is on adding more computers in the classrooms where they're more readily accessible to the students."
Accessibility is central to District 15's vision of technology as an aid to individual research, exploration and learning. The district is piloting a new curriculum at Willow Bend Elementary School in Rolling Meadows designed to use this vision to make a major difference in how students learn.
Research and presentation at the core
1. To build students' ability to access information from a wide variety of sources, including online reference materials and Internet sites, as well as traditional books and periodicals in the resource center.
2. To help students learn to assimilate that information and to use it to gain new understanding of subject matter they are studying.
To meet these goals, District 15 staff are implementing two major technology changes. First, the district is in the process of linking every classroom in its 19 buildings via a state-of-the-art wide area network. The WAN uses a fiber optic backbone capable of transmitting both data and video, and thus can be used to display traditional media as well as to exchange data and provide access to CD-ROMs and the Internet.
Second, schools within the district are developing multimedia production centers. The center at Willow Bend, the first to be completed, includes a two-camera video production setup, a video editing system, and two PowerMac multimedia systems, each complete with a video capture board, color scanner, laserdisc player, and gifics software that includes HyperStudio and Adobe Premier. These centers, used by students and teachers, serve as a major support for the presentation goals of the curriculum.
"Instead of just doing the written reports, say on whales," says Baker, "they are now integrating information from the CD-ROMs,plus photogifs, as well as some live video that they have been able to pull from laserdisc. Before long, they will be able to use data they've gleaned from Internet sites. They're bringing all this into their presentations."
The degree of complexity that students put in their presentations naturally depends on the grade level. And, too, most of the activity so far has taken place at the intermediate grade levels. But "this year is a transition year," according to Baker, "and the focus and intent is that all students, kindergarten through 6th grade, will be using technology as a method of presentation."
Each classroom at Willow Bend is supplied with a multiscan monitor, VCR and laserdisc player, which students use to show their productions to classmates. But it's also possible to broadcast computer or video creations from the production center to any or all classrooms in the building, and ultimately throughout the district.
Long and short term projects
Unlike many districts, District 15 does not limit itself to equipment it can justify for a long term. "We use rentals whenever we do a big program," says Baker, "whether a theater production, video production, or parents' night. It's a great way to fill in those items we won't use often enough to purchase. United has always been able to provide what we've needed."
"If you stopped by our classrooms," Baker continues, "you'd see the computers being used almost non-stop. Students come in before school starts and stay late afterwards, working on various projects. That's having a major impact.
"A different type of student is coming out of Willow Bend, a different
caliber. These students are expecting to continue on with what they've
learned. This is allowing our junior highs to redesign their curriculum
to provide for a continuation of this process."
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