- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

In a reversal of roles, Jason Straw, a high school student at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va., took over a classroom yesterday, even as some teachers listened and learned.

He was demonstrating software he had created that would help teachers accept, grade and return assignments over the Internet. For once, he seemed to have the advantage over his teachers. For the teen-ager, it was a "pretty cool" experience.

Jason's workshop was part of a symposium at Washington Lee High School organized by Arlington public schools' Office of Instructional Media and Technology to get teachers to become computer-savvy before a state-set 2003 deadline.

Currently, teachers' computer skills range "from those who are good enough to be professionals to those who wish computers and the Internet would just go away," said Dana Smith, instructional technology training coordinator for Arlington County public schools.

Over the past two days, more than 200 teachers from Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties and Alexandria, Falls Church and Manassas participated in a series of sessions and workshops.

Instructors stressed the need for teachers to integrate computers in their classrooms in order to be responsible educators.

"As leaders, we need to know how to use the computer" as an instructional tool and keep a step ahead of students, said one teacher, Jennifer Suh, who made a presentation about a Web site she created that helps in teaching economics to third-grade students.

Teachers, she said, often are not aware of how to make a subject like economics which comprises a major portion of the history section of the Standards of Learning tests interesting.

The transition from computer-illiterate to computer-savvy had been a little slow for teachers, she said.

One of the workshops, titled "What's Real and Not Real on the Bleeding Edge," covered the future of computer technology, with the instructor, Danny Arkin, using a smart robotics dog and a poorly equipped computer bought several years ago to demonstrate how something that was brand-new today might be totally outdated a few years down the line.

One teacher, Beverly Vaile from Glasgow Middle School in Fairfax County, said she had learned at the symposium about an exciting program called Kid Pix that would help her teach students in her English as a second language classes how to create slide-show presentations.

"Many of them have difficulty speaking and writing English … a lot of them can't type. Something like this will be great for them," she said.

She said she was attracted to the workshop because several teachers in her school were computer-savvy, and she felt a need to brush up on her skills.

"This has been a great learning experience for me," she said.

In order to ensure that teachers are capable of using computers in classrooms, Virginia has created eight broad guidelines the Technology Standards for Instructional Personnel which teachers must master in the next two years. Teachers who fail to do so can lose their licenses, Mrs. Smith said.

Over the past few years, Northern Virginia schools have spent millions of dollars updating computer technology in classrooms. In response to criticism that many teachers were not capable of using computers in classrooms, the county has been holding boot camps to educate teachers in computer technology. Last year, the county declared that at least 40 percent of its 12,000 teachers were computer literate.

But some teachers still find themselves at a loss when it comes to modern technology, and a few workshops at the symposium covered basic instruction such as introduction to Microsoft Word and Netscape Navigator.

Teachers who lacked adequate computer skills often found that students were more computer-savvy than they were, Mrs. Smith said.

"We sometimes learn from them, even as we help teach them," she said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide