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The Wired Classroom - Technology Integration
in Michigan Schools

May 2001

Each Spring, the National School Board Association (NSBA) invite educators to visit and tour school districts that are effectively integrating and utilizing technology to achieve educational goals. The tours are a chance to learn about the latest trends in technology from national experts in the field and to witness how technology integration can enrich the classroom experience. In addition, conference attendees visit schools where technology is infused into teaching and learning. The following are anecdotal stories based upon NetDay staff members visit to the Oakland Schools in Oakland County, Michigan.

"Picture a teacher in front of fifteen 1st graders, singing and rhyming, engaging the children in Spanish language instruction. Now place this school in the heart of Michigan, and envision the teacher in front of a camera, using videoconferencing to connect with 3 other 1st grade classes in other towns. This teacher, with incredible energy and a strong technology infrastructure, is able to teach Spanish to over 1300 1st through 3rd graders who would otherwise not have access to foreign language classes at such a young age. This was our first indication that the Oakland Schools are revolutionizing the educational process through the use of technology.

Now picture high school teams competing in a large gymnasium, crowds roaring, students alternately concentrating and exchanging high-fives. These students are members of engineering teams that have built remote control robots with sophisticated maneuverable parts. Each team spends months designing, testing concepts, and building their robots, utilizing complex engineering knowledge in a hands-on project often with input from the community. Finally, the teams compete in local, state, and national robotics competitions, where the robots and students compete against each other to accomplish complex tasks. These students, the future engineers of our country, illustrate in a very physical manner, the power of technology to enhance learning.

In each of these cases, technology is the means to achieve a larger educational goal; for the elementary students in the Spanish classes, the school district provides thousands of students with cost-effective access to foreign language lessons while also introducing the concept of distance learning. The high school students participating in the robotics competitions experience complex problem solving in groups while also gaining valuable engineering skills.
Our tour of the Oakland Schools offered some important lessons regarding the power of technology to impact learning:

  • Community Involvement: The use of technology was not only supported, but demanded by the community. Traditionally known for car manufacturing, Oakland County's auto companies, along with a burgeoning technology industry, understood that local high school graduates needed a higher level of technical expertise with particular emphasis on engineering and computer science in order to get good jobs within the local community.

  • Visionary Leadership: Local business and community members made sure that the superintendent shared their vision of technology's role in education, and spent 10 years working to build the technology infrastructure that allows the current technology use in the schools. The results that we observed, while a long time in the making, reflect an organized, visionary plan for technology integration.

  • Focus on Learning: The Oakland School's vision of technology integration goes beyond computers and the Internet, and is more than just hardware and software. Technology means that teachers understand how to effectively integrate online resources into lesson preparation, and that both teachers and students have access to distance learning classes. Technology integration also allows students the opportunity to write, produce, and direct videos about a particular subject, and provides a 6th grade class with the tools and lesson plans to do watershed research and contribute this data to an international database on water conservation.

 

Students in Oakland County schools are engaged and have the opportunity to benefit from all types of technology. Teachers and school leaders understand the value of technology and strive to maximize their investment in technology by exploring new ways of learning."
To learn more about the Oakland Schools in Michigan: http://www.oakland.k12.mi.us/. For more information about the National School Boards Association's "Small Meetings," which are site visits to schools with high degrees of technology integration: http://www.nsba.org/itte/smmtg.html.