Monday, December 31, 2012
Lesley faculty member Sue Cusack announced the winning name was “3P K-LO” – for “Portable Pi Pack Kennedy-Longfellow.” Though inexpensive, the small and portable units pack a lot of computing power, and can connect to any television or monitor, access the internet, support eBooks from the school’s library, run SCRATCH and thousands of programs. One was awarded to the winner, two more were given by drawing, and 20 more are available to all students to check out from the school library.
The only smile wider than the winners belonged to Albert Merck, the benefactor of a unique partnership between Lesley’s Graduate School of Education and the Kennedy-Longfellow, who looked on as students hunkered down at computers throughout the room to demonstrate their handiwork to parents and friends.
The gathering was perhaps the most visible event – and with this many K-5 students, easily the loudest – since the inception of a Lesley/Cambridge Public Schools partnership nearly two years ago. Through a gift from Merck and his wife, Kate, Cusack and Lesley Professor Emerita Anne Larkin have been working with the staff and faculty at Kennedy-Longfellow to integrate technology in the classroom and curriculum for every student in every class.
“This project moves beyond simply putting computers in the hands of students and teachers,” said Cusack, “and much of our work has centered on building trust and relationships so that we can serve as a real resource to good teachers in the classroom. Building from there, we’re able to explore together best practices, learn from effective technology integration strategies, and provide just-in-time support and resources.”
At the onset of the partnership, the Kennedy-Longfellow classrooms had just a few aging desktop computers, and the grant afforded the purchase of laptop computers for each teacher, iPads for students in classrooms, Smart Boards, digital cameras, and, most recently, a number of Rapberry Pi’s.
But the technology is only a part of the equation.
“Skilled teachers using advanced digital applications can shift the culture of classrooms from teacher-centered to student-centered, truly engaging students with the curriculum, which is essential if we’re to instill critical thinking, problem solving and knowledge acquisition among students,” said Merck at the partnership’s inception. Merck, a former director of Merck & Company, Inc., wishes to share what’s learned at Kennedy-Longfellow, and replicate it at other schools.
Over the past year, Cusack and Larkin have been working with Kennedy-Longfellow faculty, along with Jacy Edelman, the project coordinator and Kreg Hanning, the technology specialist. They’ve developed embedded professional development programs, researched practices and curriculum used well elsewhere, and served as a resource to the students and classroom teachers. Their goal isn’t to teach discreet computer skills to students – young students adapt to new technology very quickly – but to utilize its benefits across curriculum.
A kindergarten class created a video documentary of a “shapes scavenger hunt,” an early mathematics activity, integrating students’ oral presentations of the project.
Second grade ESL students produced a commercial entitled “Go on a Cambridge Adventure,” using video as they explored their hometown.
E-book poetry anthologies, with student illustrations, recorded audio and video narrations, were were developed in a first grade class, and a group of fifth graders produced realistic e-books of their fiction writing using iPad apps.
Kindergartners at Kennedy-Longfellow Skyped with students at the Haggerty School as they jointly worked on a science project, comparing results and discussing their work.
Third-graders wrote and published their science reports with an iPad App called Creative Book Builder.
And the list goes on. And as it grows, Lesley will be capturing data and identifying effective learning trends attributable to technology integration.
“Sharing student work and teacher-design innovations in the classroom is an important part of our project. We have been very fortunate to have an enthusiastic and creative group of teachers at Kennedy-Longfellow,” said Cusack. “When children and adults share their work, the results are wonderfully contagious. The poetry anthology is a good example. The success of one grade went viral and spread into several others. Each classroom chose a different path to create the e-book anthology, but the outcome was the same – a student driven, authentic opportunity for communication and sharing with the larger community. It is very exciting to see these kinds of innovations unfold in the school.”
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