Teachers want their students to be comfortable with technology at any age, and grants this spring from the Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation provided iPads, promethean boards, student response systems, and computers to make that happen.
At Willow Brook Elementary School, the large screen of a new interactive, Web-based “promethean” board in art classes will make artworks come alive for students.
At Linden Elementary School, iPads in a second grade classroom will engage students in collaborative writing activities.
New computers in fifth-grade language arts classrooms at Robertsville Middle School will also encourage young writers in a writing workshop environment.
The Education Foundation awarded $30,911 for eight grants this spring. In all, teachers submitted 21 grants representing a total funding request of $142,962.
“Every year, we have about three times as many proposals as we can fund,” said Cathy Toth, Education Foundation board member. The Foundation has provided more than $322,000 in grants since the grants program began in 2005.
Earlier this year, the Education Foundation kicked off its “Making the Critical Difference” campaign to raise $500,000 from corporate and individual donors to award grants to Oak Ridge public schools. The Foundation’s goal is to provide $100,000 a year for five years for grant awards.
This year’s grants were focused on technology. Each year, the Foundation seeks to provide teachers with resources that would otherwise not be available to classrooms through the Oak Ridge Schools.
Art students from kindergarten through fourth grade at Willow Brook will benefit from the new promethean board in Sara Cochran’s art classes. The interactive board will give her more opportunities to bring Web-based information into art classes, such as short videos, images of art, definitions of vocabulary words, and ways to see those in art works, she said.
“Most of the projects I come up with have an art history component,” Cochran said. “We are gaining inspiration from someone else. I think it will make the art history component in my classes come alive a little better.”
For students to be able to see works by artists in color on a large screen, rather than in a book, is “pretty cool,” she said.
Cochran and two music teachers, Michelle Goethert at Willow Brook and Susie Carden at Woodland Elementary School, each will have promethean boards in their classrooms through a $9,354 grant. Another $3,935 grant provides a promethean board for Glenwood Elementary School music teacher Kathy Casey. The boards will support technology components in new art and music textbooks.
With four iPads in a second grade classroom at Linden Elementary, teacher Norma Franco will give students opportunities to work collaboratively at literacy centers, where they may write stories together or use free applications focused on words, grammar, spelling, or reading.
“Writing and working with words seem to be the two areas they (students) have trouble staying most focused on,” Franco said. “If we can make it engaging through technology, I think it is going to expand their learning and their creativity.”
Second-grade teachers have adopted some teaching strategies from the books The Daily Five and The Café Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, and Franco said she has learned more about how teachers are using iPads in the classroom through a blog that teachers started relating to those books.
The iPads, purchased with the grant of $1,996, are engaging for students because they can figure out how the iPads work on their own, independent of the teacher, she said.
This fall, Robertsville teachers Kathy Douglas and Carolyn Stevens will have 16 new desktop computers, eight for each language arts classroom, where fifth-grade students rely on classroom computers for writing projects, research, spelling, and vocabulary exercises. The $4,720 grant provides new computers that will replace 10 older, slower computers that had been recycled from computer labs.
Writing, especially narrative writing, is emphasized in fifth grade, and the computers will support the writing workshop environment in which students are brainstorming, writing rough drafts, and then publishing their writings, Douglas explained.
Other grants awarded were:
- $8,550 to Holly Cross at Jefferson Middle School for three sets of student response systems, or clickers.
- $1,000 to Oak Ridge High School biology teacher Nayeema Ahma for travel to an advanced placement biology conference.
- $987 to Robertsville teachers Cathy Ginel and Melissa Jeter for promethean equipment for a science classroom.
- $369 for Lisa Meidl for a video camera for the Willow Brook library.