Technology and School Reform

At Sequoyah Elementary School teachers want to reach students in deep and meaningful ways. They seek to find new approaches to teaching and presenting the subject matter in order to engage, motivate, and inspire young minds. Aware of this goal we are looking at a new "Technological Knowledge Age" learning approach, engaging students in how to work to solve complex problems. It means students working on collaborative teams and employing higher-order thinking skills to construct understandings, insights, and innovations. It means students learning to use modern technological tools to communicate their ideas with their classmates, their teachers, their parents, and even a worldwide audience. And it requires diverse and innovative assessment that can potentially measure all of the content knowledge and skills we are asking students to master in this increasingly technological world.

But, the question is, "How do we incorporate technology into a year-round school whose foundation of education is based on the Core Knowledge Sequence, Great Expectation Practices and Procedures, and Arts Plus Education? Plus we must meet state and district educational standards. And into all this we must weave the new "Technological Knowledge Age" learning approach." Incorporating all the above listed objectives begins with a well-informed and cooperative faculty. Everyone must be trained in the three main curriculum areas. The horizontal team-planned lessons are then incorporated into the technology-planned activities; these activities must meet state/national technology standards and are based on team collaborative planning sessions.

With the year-round schedule, four nine-week sessions with three-week breaks in between and a seven-week summer for students, topics and activities cannot be carried over from quarter to quarter. Therefore all activities must be started and completed within those nine weeks. During the three-week intersession we offer several activities for those in need of additional help in subject areas. Plus we offer intermediate and advanced classes for students, staff, and parents who like to be challenged further.

Technology activities are a component of the intersession weeks. We use one week of the intersession for instructional activities so that way we get a break also. Because it's such a short period of time we use paper pieces, including "keyboarding" with paper keyboards as a good start for students. For the staff we teach Excel graphing techniques for use in graphing class averages and grades and PowerPoint introductions with an eight (or more) slide presentation for use in the classroom. Participants walk away with something they designed and can use when the break is over. They also learn Web site design using FrontPage and become familiar with educational sites both for research, lesson plans, and virtual tours. For the parents, we offer resumŽ-building and an introduction to the Internet for themselves and their child. These are just a few of the most popular sessions. As you can see, most of them take less than a week to teach and produce a usable product.

During the nine-week quarters many activities focus on the introduction of a topic, enhancing a topic and/or assessing a topic. In order for you to understand the technology role in the students' learning, you must first have an understanding of our educational foundation. We subscribe to the three following value-sets. They are briefly summarized here, but it is advisable to visit the Web site of each to obtain complete understanding.

1. Core Knowledge
Core Knowledge is based on the fact that "Knowledge Builds on Knowledge." We learn new knowledge by building on what we already know.

2. Great Expectations
The Great Expectations homepage refers to "Visionary Administrators, Dynamic Teachers, and Inspired Students." The program's goal is to rejuvenate educators and thus rejuvenate education.

3. A+ Schools That Work for Everyone
The A+ Schools Program is an approach to teaching and learning grounded in the belief that the arts can play a central role in how children learn.


Integrating technology into components such as those explained above opens the doors to endless possibilities and collaboration. The collaboration component involves many people, including the Library Media Specialist, the Technology Specialist, and, of course, classroom teachers. The staff at Sequoyah Elementary uses the following steps in designing a collaborative project:

  1. Identify a project idea. Define specific project task, the parameters for student decision making, and the outcomes.
  2. Determine time frame.
  3. Set goals according to state standards.
  4. Identify specifics goals, tasks, and outcomes so that students will understand what they are going to learn, and what the results will be.
  5. Plan for assessment.
  6. Begin the project with the students, making sure that deadlines and schedules are clear, and provide guidance, assistance, and encouragement when students need it.
  7. At the project's end, have students share results and reflect on outcomes.

Each collaborative meeting is recorded on a form that we designed. The form includes the following items: Topic/Theme, Teachers Present, Objective, Standards, Time Needed, Procedures, Assessment methods, Pre-topic reviews (ex. citing, bibliographies, resources, researching methods, etc.), final product, if any is required. Each member of the collaborative team will receive a final copy of the form, with a copy going to the principal.

Students benefit from the combination of these educational components in many ways. Here at Sequoyah Elementary we have seen an enormous rise in reading scores and with the emphasis on reading other academic areas have improved immensely. The year-round schedule and the foundations of learning that are implemented allow for a very structured learning environment that is very conducive to optimum learning and promotes life-long achievement.

Email: Shelly Eitniear Cherry