Enhanced English Teacher

A blog about using technology in an English classroom

Writing Grants

October 1, 2009 by Tara Seale · 4 Comments · 21st Century Literacy

I have been busy writing grants the past few weeks to benefit my classroom.  My district has set aside money for teacher grants, and I want to put it where it is best deserved, but of course, my focus is literacy above all else, so maybe I am biased.  The majority of the high school math teachers in my district have a Smartboard in their classrooms, but we have not implemented this tech tool in the English department yet.  Because I also serve as an Instructional Technology Specialist, as well as an English teacher, some of the math teachers have asked me how I would use the Smartboard in a classroom.  I cannot answer this question because I do not have one, and I have never used one, very jealous too!

I decided I needed to know if a Smartboard is  a worthy technology tool to have in an English classroom.  Would it benefit my students or would it just be a great gadget that might engage my students for awhile?  I started my research.  I started with Dana Huff.  You can view her posts related to a Smartboard here.

Then I moved to the English Companion Ning.  Many resources for using a Smartboard in an English Classroom are posted on the ECN.  Just go to the website and search for Smartboard or click on this LINK to read one of the forum discussions.

Next, I started to search for software that I could use with my mythical Smartboard to assist my students in engaging, interactive lessons, and I discovered Smartboard enhanced software lessons provided by Prestwick House. After reading what my students could do with the enhanced lessons, I knew that I really wanted to try this out.  I googled reviews and decided I had to have a Smartboard to use with the Prestwick House software.  I am not a traditional student myself.  I need to move around, and I am very visual, so just sitting and listening to a teacher go on and on is much like Charlie Brown’s teacher, blah, blah, blah, and I have no idea what she said.  Poetic justice has given me students much like myself.  I deserve every one of them.  They need to move and see what is happening.  I know that technology is just a tool; it is never the complete answer, but I do believe that the ability to drag clauses, parts of sentences, punctuation, and the like around on a Smartboard is not only engaging, but it will make a difference in those students who have to move and create.

I wrote a grant to ask my district to provide me with a Smartboard and software to engage my students in class.  I am not sure if it will be considered one of the worthy grants they receive, but even if it isn’t, my district has given me the opportunity to request this money for my classroom.  Every district across America should earmark money for teachers to write up their requests and explain what technology tools they want to use in their classroom and how it will benefit the students.  Our district form is just a short four part form and well worth filling out.  I can only hope that districts across America are also implementing this strategy.  America needs to ask teachers what they want in their classrooms: How will they use it, and how will it benefit students?  I am so impressed with the teachers that I follow on Twitter and blogs that I believe if districts across America implement Bryant School District’s process of asking teachers what do they need and how will they use it,  school districts will find that they have teachers who are creative and innovative when it comes to finding ways to engage students, and this is what will make the difference in America’s students.

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Linda Valley

    It’s difficult in the English classroom to prioritize the importance of literacy components:
    – the literacy of classic reading and writing
    – the literacy of technological reading and writing,
    and yet be able to produce sufficient student scores on state assessments. To further complicate these issues, there are the social, political, economic, and global components within technology literacy. I’m new at this and am currently reading Selfe’s Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century (1999) and Selber’s Multiliteracies for a Digital Age (2004). I have several questions and concerns and they do incorporate the SMARTboard topic of your post:
    How much of technology use in the classroom is simply keeping up-to-date with technology use?
    How much of it is paying attention to the more abstract definitions of functional, critical, and rhetorical technology literacy?
    How do students learn and how do teachers teach to include these more abstract areas of evaluating the social and political connections to the technology we are teaching them to use?

    Interactive white boards seem to be one more thing to update the classroom. Yes, it is keeping us and our students’ current with technology, but how much research could have been done to prove its link to learning? And what percentage of teachers will be using it beyond just another piece of equipment to access information? When I bring new technologies into the classroom, for example video conferencing, it seems to just put my lesson on a different playing field and I struggle to find its relevance within the extended technology literacy definition.

    I was surprised at the extensive technology discussions on English Companion Ning and even this special section on SMARTBoards. I will be instituting this technology before long in my own classroom because we are just beginning to install and implement Promethean boards in my Indiana district. I will be sharing your tips and connections with those who have them hanging on their walls. I’m sure you can tell from my tone that I am an immigrant not a national but know the importance of embracing technology. I was surprised that so many teachers communicating on this blog are using technology quite extensively. I had to remind myself, though, that those who do not have availability to this technology would not be joining the discussion. My next concern.

  • B. Knaus

    Sorry, I’ve had this post favorited in Twitter (I’m @learnteachtech) for a while and I’m just getting to commenting.

    Here’s my background: I teach 6th, 7th, & 8th graders in an urban school in Minneapolis. Two years ago, I had a Smartboard in my room. This year, it was replaced with a Promethean board. Just a few weeks ago, I was selected to participate in a laptop pilot. Now, all students in my classes have a laptop to use during class.

    Increasingly, I am finding myself on the negative side of IWBs: Smart or Promethean. Now that I’ve been using the laptops, I am being even more critical of IWBs.

    In my district, it costs about $2000 to put a board in a classroom. (This doesn’t count the projector, which I couldn’t live without).

    In terms of student interaction with technology, an IWB is 1:1. One student is interacting with $2000.

    With the laptops, the student to technology interaction ratio goes up. Macbooks are 2:1 for $2000. A basic Window machine would be 4:1. A netbook model would be 8:1, roughly.

    For my money, if writing a grant, I’d opt for 8 netbooks or 4 Windows machines and make them into stations in my room. I’d rather have 4-8 students interacting with technology rather 1 with 24 others watching.

    That all said, I do like having my Promethean board. It makes it very easy for those times that I need to be in front of the class, or show something in the software that makes learning easier.

  • Linda Valley

    I appreciate your response which confirms my suspicion about interactive white boards. Why not put the technology in the students’ hands? There is so much they need to be experiencing, learning, using, and personalizing. Our classrooms don’t need to represent the newest and greatest event in recent technology. They need to represent an awareness and sincere incorporation of technology literacy.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve come to learn that technology literacy includes the design, operation, and interaction with technology, coupled with political, social, personal, and educational aspects of its use. The classroom is the perfect place to experiment and understand the world behind the digital world.

    This means several things to me.

    First of all, I believe that in order to teach writing, I must be a writer and I must share in that process. Likewise, if I’m going to incorporate and teach technology, I need to be a technology user and share in that arena. If the government is going to mandate technology standards and safe technology usage, I need to be aware of the best ways to implement that in my own classroom. So tell me:

    - Where is your school and your classroom in relationship to these government standards and mandates?

    - And with your new student laptops, what types of lessons or experiences are you having, being those planned or unplanned lessons?

  • Ben K.

    In terms of govt. standards at our school and classroom, I really haven’t paid much attention. In Minnesota, they are changing constantly. For instance, the K-8 Keyboarding for Computer Applications license that I obtained last year is already out of date. There is a newer license based on newer standards. Thankfully, I did this license through a portfolio and only thing lost was time, not money for tuition.

    That said, I focus on good teaching and student engagement and learning. Good writing is good writing, computer or pencil. Good research is good research, Google or encyclopedia. Good presentation is good presentation, web cam or standing in front of class.

    Mandates come and go. Standards change every few years. Good teaching always leads to student achievement.

    I think that the use of technology takes my good teaching and takes it to another level that does a better job of engaging my students. I like that.

    As for lesson plans:

    Not much is changing. We still do writing, we still do reflection, we still do presenting, we still do research. However, the writing is in a blog. The reflection is now three way-student to self, student to class, and student to teacher-and those are all two way streets using a feedback forum on our Moodle. Our research is done on Google. Our presenting is done many ways. Pictures of work, videos on web cam, and old-fashioned stand in front of your peers and talk.

    The one thing that has surprised me in this venture is the lack of knowledge that my students have. I posted a question, had them Google search for an answer and about half could pick out search terms that were effective. That was an eye opener.

    People tell me that our students are digital natives and disagree 100%. They don’t know how to do things that I take for granted. Sure, they can beat the crap out of me on games and My Space, but they can’t type, they can’t search, and they are unfamiliar with most of the applications that I bring into their world.

    With a bit of guidance, they get it quickly. But it is not a native thought process for them.

    Okay, that’s a lot of information my general teaching philosophy and the role of technology in my classroom. I hope it helps in some way.

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