Peakview Elementary Uses Technology in a "Total School" Environment

Opened in August of 1991, Peakview Elementary in Aurora, Colo., is the newest elementary school in the Cherry Creek School District. Prior to the school's opening, the principal and staff were in a unique position to rethink education and the role technology would play. It was decided to restructure elementary education on a schoolwide level and implement technology in a "total school" environment. One of the most daring decisions made was the elimination of textbooks for videodiscs and other media. Science, social studies and math topics are covered in an interactive format that appeals to several grade levels and complements Peakview's structure. Says Karen Peterson, Peakview's technology coordinator, on technology implementation in education nationwide, "There are pockets of really wonderful things going on [with technology] in certain rooms, but there's nothing dedicated schoolwide on such an intense level [as Peakview]." Team Organization The school has been structured so that all K-5 students are divided into three teams. Each team boasts three to four primary classrooms where grades 1 and 2 are combined (kindergarten students are separated) plus two to three intermediate classes with third through fifth graders grouped in a multiple-age setting. The district curriculum guide for grades 3 to 5 was taken apart and reassembled in a three-year cycle. Students stay in the same teams throughout their primary education, often seeing the same teachers. "Kids [of various ages] eat lunch together, work together, play outside and go on field trips together," Peterson explains. In this heterogeneous grouping technique, curriculum and rotation are identical for all three groups. For example, in math instruction, students in each team work in developmental groups and are not bound by grade levels. Advanced and slower learners work together, depending on the skills they both need to master. "The skills are all the same but expectations are different," Peterson continues. "The videodiscs' format challenges students who have mastered a proficiency and provides experiences that help them move [to the next level]."

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Students as Creators Peakview has been using 11 videodisc players from Pioneer New Media Technologies in Long Beach, Calif., either as teacher tools or student resources, since it opened. For example, the school's art specialist relies on a player and her Mac LC computer to introduce students to art. She uses the National Gallery of Art videodisc with its accompanying software, easily searching by artist, piece or period. In addition to instruction, videodiscs are utilized extensively by students to develop projects and presentations. All students use of HyperStudio, an authoring package from Roger Wagner Publishing, El Cajon, Calif., to author multimedia projects on various topics throughout their elementary instruction. The software is loaded on the four to five Macs housed in each classroom. All completed projects are then stored on the school's network fileserver. Students are encouraged to access these peer-created multimedia projects just as they would an encyclopedia or other reference. The viewer is either instructed as to which videodisc is needed to run the presentation, or a QuickTime movie made from the videodisc used is incorporated into the students' project. This Ethernet network extends from the media center to all classroom computers. Where the Players Are Four videodisc players are available to teachers for check-out and use in the classroom. Two to three more are in the media center and primarily used for research and reference purposes. And lastly, four Pioneer videodisc players are situated in a multimedia lab. Students use these players and the computers in the lab to add videodisc and CD-ROM materials to their projects -- roughly 30 to 40 videodisc titles are at students' and teachers' disposal. Every month the media center organizes different student projects as exhibits. "The exhibits were projects students did that are related to an area of study or personal interest," Peterson says. Used this way, "technology becomes a platform for sharing information." The school's restructuring also involves the elimination of letter grades. Performance-based assessment is implemented instead, and students' projects are therefore evaluated on content, presentation, knowledge gained and how the media was visually represented. CD-ROMs Too Ten CD-ROM drives provide access to another 30 to 40 CD-ROMs used for research purposes. Seven external drives can be checked out by instructors and connected to a classroom computer as needed, while three internal drives are located in media center computers. The titles are used to aid in instruction or for use in student multimedia productions. In addition, they often serve as resources; students may print out hard copies of the information needed for their work. Teachers use the drives in class. In fact, Peterson points out that the school has several science CD-ROM discs targeted for K-2 instruction. Sweet Success Peakview's success can be attributed to several factors. According to Peterson, "The initial group [of educators] was willing to take risks even though they didn't know much about technology."

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.

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