Project TEACH Implements Versatile Software

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Technology integration into the curriculum is a difficult concept to implement. A bigger problem than ordering, installing and networking computers is training the teachers. This training consists of two separate but related parts. First, teachers must learn to use the programs for creating teacher materials, and they must feel comfortable teaching them to students. Second, teachers must also be taught how to integrate technology into what is already being taught. There is not enough time in the educational day to add a technology lesson. Technology must be blended in to the existing curriculum so that instruction is improved by the use of computers.

The Keller Independent School District in Keller, Texas trains its teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum with Project TEACH. In the 90 hours of Project TEACH training, teachers learn to use the programs that students will be using in the classroom. Then they create thematic units that are based on objectives from several subject areas, not just technology applications. As an incentive for participation, teachers receive a new teacher station, four new student computers, a digital camera, a scanner and software for their classrooms.

"The program is an overwhelming success with our teachers," explains J'e Griffin, executive director of technology for the Keller schools. "They like the incentives because they want the latest and greatest technology in their classrooms." In the four years since the program was started, almost 80% of all K-6 teachers have been trained. Last year, over 300 teachers participated. This school year marks the first time that secondary teachers will be allowed to participate in the program.

At the end of every year, the Project TEACH curriculum is evaluated to ensure that it is meeting the needs of the teachers and, ultimately, the students. "All aspects of the training program were analyzed, including the software," says Project TEACH Coordinator Lisa Ham. The findings showed that the training needed to be more convenient for the teachers, and the number of software titles needed to be reduced. The training was moved to the individual campuses and the search was on for software that could meet the needs of a wide variety of teachers. "We knew that we would be adding the secondary teachers in the future, so we wanted a program that would work for grades K-12, and in a variety of subject areas. We also knew that it wasn't going to be easy to find one program that achieved this goal," says Ham.

The main goal of Project TEACH is to prepare teachers to integrate the technology objectives into their curricula successfully. These technology objectives are based on the standards set by the state, the district's educational objectives and the district's technology plan. To teach the knowledge and skills of these objectives successfully, teachers must be able to perform several applications: word processing, drawing, painting, and creating spreadsheets, as well as using a Web browser, a multimedia program and a Web editor. "We knew Microsoft Office was our first application. But because of financial constraints, we wanted to purchase one program that could fulfill the other objectives. We needed a program that could do drawing, painting, multimedia and Web editing," says Ham. "After evaluating several products, we selected Leonardo. We liked the fact that the program connects to the Web through buttons, and that the project manager feature helps teachers organize."

Teachers were trained to create interactive projects made up of cards. These cards can contain text, clipart, digital photographs, sound clips, animations and video. Text can be typed onto the card or it can be copied from a Word file. Images from a scanner or digital camera can also be imported into the projects. Leonardo comes with a wide variety of clipart, but many students' favorite way to add pictures to cards is by using the stamp tool. Math teachers will benefit from the Geometry drawing tools and the ability to create tables and charts. "The ability to integrate the other programs and import and export images was an important selling feature. This program can be used by all teachers and students across the curriculum," says Ham.

Buttons are an interactive feature that can be added to the cards. The end user can click on buttons that can take him or her to another card, display or hide objects, play video clips, and open a Web browser to display a specific Web page. The button wizard walks through the various steps and makes the process of adding functionality to a button very easy. "Our teachers create cards with buttons that open Web pages. Then students can visit several Web sites without the problems of typing addresses," says Ham.

Another requirement of Project TEACH is that the teachers agree to teach other educators about different areas of technology. They make an informal presentation either about what they have done in their class with their computers, or about an area of expertise they have related to technology. This component was integrated to ensure that the teachers were collaborating and working together to achieve technological success. Because it is such a powerful program with endless possibilities, many of the teachers shared their experiences and ideas about Leonardo.

At the end of the year, Project TEACH teachers must turn in the lesson plans created for each of the software titles. The lesson plans for Leonardo were quite diverse. Some teachers created several small interactive projects for the students to view; some developed assignments for the students to create interactive projects; and some used it as their Web editor. Leonardo had proven to be a program that all teachers could use, regardless of subject matter or grade level.

Lisa Ham
Technology Coordinator
Keller Independent School District,
Keller, TX

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