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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]


Education students integrate technology into the classroom without losing the human touch

[photo]  School of Education  students collaborate while notes are recorded on a PLU-provided Apple iMac
School of Education students collaborate while notes are recorded on a PLU-provided Apple iMac.

By Drew Brown, Editor

Kyle Shanton, a faculty member in the PLU School of Education, rolls a gargantuan red Radio Flyer wagon behind him, with all usual supplies for an elementary school classroom: pencils, pens, crayons, books, paper, ruler, glue, CD-ROM disks, an Apple iBook laptop with wireless connectivity to the Internet. Educators have often worried that technology will depersonalize the essence of teaching, which is human interaction.

Education, meet Matthew Barritt and his colleagues. Barritt is one of many in the PLU School of Education who have helped develop the department’s continuing goal of technology integration. Students in PLU’s School of Education are developing as skilled users of technology in large measure because of alumnus Diana Pederson ’83. Pederson gave a generous gift to the School of Education that funded much of the equipment that puts students ahead of the curve. It also allowed for the creation of the Pederson/Stein Technology Enhanced Classroom—in honor of her grandfather, Arne Pederson, and Lynn Stein, faculty emeriti in the School of Education.

The learning starts where, on this day, Matthew Barritt is teaching a software program called Inspiration. An unusual compatibility snafu won’t allow Barritt to project his computer’s image up on the screen. The solution? Hook up the digital camera, point it at the computer monitor, and project that. Barritt doesn’t miss a beat. What started as a software demo has become a lesson learned.


[photo] Matthew Barritt discusses educational concepts in a small group workshop
Matthew Barritt discusses educational concepts in a small group workshop.

"Don’t kick yourself when things don’t go right,” Barritt says to his students, “this can be hard.” Inspiration allows students to “idea map”—the old fashioned concept of starting from one idea, and branching off. Idea mapping takes on a different dimension in computers: ideas can be changed, moved, and further text can be written off screen. Instead of the software being the lesson, it becomes a tool for students to brainstorm educational concepts. They then can take Inspiration into their own classrooms.

Students move into small groups in different rooms—each group recorder carrying an iBook. While the mapping is done, students jump out of their seats over to the monitor, pointing at the screen, interacting with each other—learning the software while molding ideas. At times, the iBook is the center of attention, but mostly, the collaboration is what takes center stage.

Barb Pixton ’01 was initially reluctant when it came to technology, but now sees its potential. “Technology opens up so many doors,” she said. “Students who were hesitant to share opened up with e-mail.”

Jenn Smith ’01 and Jenn Griffin ’01, students in Barritt’s Media & Technology (K-8) class, took on the responsibility of facilitating technological communication between Spanaway Jr. High students and teachers. “Discussion on computers toned down the formality,” said Smith. “Students felt more comfortable in sharing their opinions and creating ideas.”

The School of Education emphasizes analysis of the individual situation—finding out what resources their school has, and using those resources to improve learning.

“A pen and pencil are ‘technology, ’” Smith added. “Like any tool, it’s important to know how to use it to benefit your students.”

For PLU’s education students, their most valuable individual tool may be what they call “electronic portfolios.” They have been able to use their advanced technological knowledge to develop extensive teaching portfolios that are put on CD-ROMs and posted to the Internet.

Electronic portfolios are built to reflect teacher competency standards and are aligned with the department’s core values of competence, care, leadership and service. Lessons they have learned from working with others, challenges they have had, personal interests, philosophies they have developed and changed, projects they have completed and lessons they have taught. This only scratches the surface of what students have put on their electronic portfolios. Both CD-ROM’s and the Internet allow enough memory to include large video clips—most have added personal teaching footage to show evidence in fulfilling the core values and competency standards.

“Electronic portfolios tell a story of who students are,” said Barritt, “well beyond their résumés.” Each is a work in progress—from lessons taught to lessons learned, from collaboration to individual achievement. Electronic portfolios show not just a record of accomplishments, but a record of learning and personal growth.

In the School of Education, the key is not the technology. The key is using the benefits of technology to help move forward the very human art of teaching—and the PLU School of Education is leading the way.


Pacific Lutheran University Scene
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