Calif. High school Enters the Digital Age by Fully Integrating A/V Equipment

Leland High School in San Jose, Calif., has embarked on a bold initiative not to change the face of education today, but to enhance it by integrating non-intrusive technology into the classroom. The mission of the pilot program, entitled Classroom ë97, was to construct a model based on Governor Pete Wilsonís Digital High School plan.

The Governor had urged public schools to adopt new technologies without spending excessive amounts of money or sacrificing the traditional teacher-student relationship. Rather than simply placing a computer on every desk, Leland High School wanted a solution that kept the teacher at the center of the classroom.

A dedicated magnet school with an emphasis in communications and international studies, Leland was honored in 1990 as a California Distinguished High School for academic success. Officials there have always looked for creative, flexible instructional methods and systems that empowered students.

A Natural Partnership

Larry Carlson, a former English teacher, helped the school secure a partnership with Tegrity, a community-conscious firm also located in San Jose. The firm manufactures an audio-visual presentation package that provides a smooth transition from chalkboards into the electronic age.

The Tegrity Class Solution combines a regular (non-electronic) whiteboard and markers with patented Visual Interaction technology. An LCD projector projects images from any Windows application (such as Microsoft PowerPoint) or compatible video device (such as a videodisc player). A video visualizer projects images from a textbook or other 3D objects.

Once the images are projected onto a whiteboard, the presenter can make notes with colored markers, then capture the entire contents with a video camera. The capturing and distribution of information are controlled through a "virtual touch panel" that appears on the edge of the whiteboard.

The Tegrity Class Solution automates many of the tasks required of teachers, such as delivering notes to students. By connecting the system to the Internet, instructors also can communicate directly with parents and members of the community.

Classroom ë97 in Action

The Classroom ë97 pilot program began in January with three participants. Currently, six teachers share two Tegrity systems for disciplines ranging from English to science. Stephanie Aguilera, an English and ESL instructor, has been involved with the program since its inception.

In her classes, Aguilera projects student work onto the whiteboard with the video visualizer, then asks other students to help her edit it. This process engages students in reviewing a paper and allows them to better understand the grades they receive. For example, Aguilera can show the class which papers earned an "A" and why.

According to Aguilera, her students benefit by seeing othersí mistakes as well as samples of outstanding work. In a letter to Tegrity, Robert Setterlund, Lelandís vice principal, writes that the instructional approach enhanced routine assignments by drawing the audience into the lessons. "The subject matter becomes fresh and current, thus promoting student participation and cooperative learning."

Setterlund adds that the Tegrity Class Solution -- by merging the whiteboard with software, videos and more -- appealed to a variety of learning styles. "The Tegrity system truly bridges the gap between technology and teaching methods," he states.

Another Leland teacher, Roger Evans, has connected the system to a microscope to project magnified images of organisms or individual cells. Evans often prepares his lessons in advance, saving files in HTML format so that they can be posted on the Web.

Students Seem Confident

Evans, Aguilera and the rest of the Classroom ë97 team report that students in their classes now seem more confident sharing their ideas, which translates into greater creativity and spontaneity. Some teachers encourage students to lead discussions as "facilitators," making notes on the whiteboard and controlling the computer.

Projecting information for all to see eliminated the hassle of running to the copy center. Instead, one can print out complete notes that reflect the comments made in class. As with any new system, it took a while for teachers to become comfortable with the technology and its social implications.

Classroom ë97 has already attracted attention from outside educators, and plans are underway to expand the program to other schools in the San Jose Unified School District. Tegrity also has forged partnerships with numerous colleges and universities, including San Jose State University, Mission College Skyline Community College and the California College of Podiatric Medicine.

Officials expect these efforts will provide a broader picture of how the Tegrity Class Solution can be a valuable tool for classroom instruction and staff development.


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This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.