The Urbana District vision is to fully integrate technology into the daily life of our schools. By using technology as a tool, all school personnel will be able to manage the learning environment effectively and efficiently. The ultimate goal is to teach skills that will enable students to become life-long learners in a global society. The mission of the district is to provide resources and training to teachers and staff so they will be better able to integrate technology into the curriculum. At the same time, the district wants to provide innovative instruction that recognizes the individual learning styles of students and provides immediate access to data that will aid instructional decision making.
In order to accomplish these goals, the district will seek to provide equitable opportunities for students in all buildings, establish staff development opportunities, integrate technology into curricular planning and implementation, and coordinate equipment acquisition.
The beginning of our technology plan states: "We envision Urbana Middle School as a place where the use of technology increases student achievement by improving the quality of curricula and instruction." Urbana's population is truly diverse and providing curriculum that challenges all students without excluding some is a challenge. This is especially true because Urbana District #116 is committed to the inclusion of all its special needs students in the general education setting as appropriate. One of the tools we will use to make UMS a place where all students succeed will be the increased use of technology to plan, implement, and evaluate instruction.
Within my classroom, there are both strengths and deficit areas. During the 1996-97 school year our building was networked so that each room in the building has a drop that allows access to the school server and the Internet beyond. By reserving a COW - Computer on Wheels - it was possible for an individual student in a classroom to work on documents, do research, and send work to be printed. Groups of students could work in the computer lab if there were no other classes scheduled. This coming school year there will be a computer in every room which will make physical access easier. Perhaps the greatest asset in our building is the spirit of collaboration. Staff offer to share knowledge and experience, share hardware, and problem solve to provide time, materials, and moral support.
The special education program at Urbana Middle School provides much of its services in the general education classroom in the least resrictive setting. Some students have a regularly scheduled resource class where they receive help with assignments and learn strategies that help them deal with specific learning situations. At other times they may leave the general ed classroom to get assistance with specific assignments.
My students often have difficulty with attention, organization, and memory. They also have difficuly generalizing from situation to situation. To help them take charge of their learning the first improvement that I would make in my classroom is to create spreadsheet templates to help them keep track of assignments. Installing formulae to calculate averages would help them monitor their grades. It is typical for a middle school student to underestimate the importance of completing all assignments.
My E/BD students most generally have deficits in reading but an affinity for searching the Internet. I would like to investigate the text-to-speech software currently on the market and purchase software that best meets our needs. If students had access to this technology, they would be able to take charge of their own learning. They could also hear their own work to listen for errors they might not be able to recognize on the written page. This would also free them from being seen by their peers as being dependent on the teacher, a barrier to most middle school students.
A third area I would like to explore is the creation of mini lessons using PowerPoint. By using this technology, students who missed a lesson because of absence, attention deficits, or behavior which interferred with learning would be able to see what happened in class. Students who have difficulty with memory could review the lesson to help reinforce their learning. The mini lesson could use digital photos taken during the classroom presentation, examples of worksheets, maps, etc., and explanations of the teacher's expectations for the assignment. For some assignments a template could help students organize their work and prepare a product they like. This is an important consideration for learning disabled students who have motor difficulties.
The average day in my dream classroom would begin with reading my e.mail and building announcements from my desk. Then I would use other communication tools to check the lesson plans for each of the teachers on my team so that I could determine the most effective places to be in order to support my students in the general education setting. I would send electronic passes to the teachers who would send students for additional assistance with assignments.
During resource class students would use the multiple computers and drops in my room to work on projects and assignments. Text-to-speech software would be available to help students read novels and short stories assigned in language arts classes. Software that would provide simulations for making responsible choices would also be available along with templates for self-monitoring of behaviors. Students could review lessons from the collection of mini lessons prepared in PowerPoint. Others might work on organizing the individual electronic portfolios that all my students would keep to store examples of their best work and to evaluate their progress.
As the day progressed, I would take my digital camera and my laptop to classrooms to document lessons and record students engaged in the lessons. Pictures of students exhibiting both appropriate and inappropriate behavior could be used with curriculum teaching students to make responsible choices. The photos could also be incorporated into communications with parents about student progress,and of course the photos would also be used in the mini lesson collection.
Students doing research in the library would have access to a computerized card catalogue of materials in the school library and in other libraries in a cooperative system. They would also be able to access magazine and encyclopedia articles from CD-ROM's and the computers would also be linked to the Internet for further research options. Those students whose research was complete could begin to write their reports on word processing software available there. I am happy to report that this part of my dream is in fact a reality at UMS thanks to our librarian Martha Rinne.
At the end of my day I would return to my classroom to download the data I had collected. I would use built in programs to monitor student progress and send them notes and suggestions. This information would be added to the files for each of my students along with information from the suspension room regarding my students. This documentation would be readily converted into the functional analyses and IEP's for each of my students. Then just before I left for the day, I would peruse the online catalogs to determine the best way to spend my unlimited budget.