A.B. How is technology integrated in your school? Who pioneered the program at Dalton?
When I came to Dalton in 1983, a wealthy family had funded a personal computer lab; I was hired as a middle school computer specialist. We already had a robust computer program, sharing a main frame computer with Spence nearby. But the lab, full of Apples, was different…focusing on integrating computers into general academics, not computer science. I taught Pascal, Logo, computer literacy, and integrated computers into my own 6th grade social studies and English classes.
A few years later, my position was eliminated and I opted to take a 4th grade classroom position where I've been happily ever since. As for the school, another wealthy donor provided funds for The New Lab for Teaching and Learning -connected to Columbia University Teachers College, Apple, and various other institutions. Dalton jumped into all sorts of exciting and innovative computer-related teaching. I can't say it was one person, as there have been so many who have been innovative at Dalton. You can read more on the New Lab here.
My part over the years was to push for more writing and humanities teaching with computers. Because the one lab did not accommodate a 1 to 1 situation for my 4th graders, I successfully lobbied for personal word processors instead. I wrote about this in an April 1994 article for Educational Leadership, "Empowering Young Writers with Technology." We started with Tandys, went on to Dreamwriters, and now are using Alphasmarts. I also was a 1997 American Memory Fellow at the Library of Congress and was able to help the other 4th grade teachers all use the unit I developed there, (The original lesson; The revised one is HERE.
We all got really into Web publications. One I did for Sierra Leone during the war (I was a Peace Corps volunteer there) is HERE. (I received an award from the National Peace Corps Association for this one). Another innovative project was the Many Faces of Alice project still ongoing.
A.B. How have you been able to get teachers on board? I'm curious as to whether there are any obstacles?
I'm the head of the 4th grade (5 head teachers and 2 associates) and have been lucky — the teachers have been, game, trying new things. We also hire, with an eye to those who are comfortable with technology! Further, we have a lot of tech support. Without, I don't think we could do as much as we do. Tech support is critical, critical, critical.
Another thing we have that has made a huge difference is a special faculty laptop program. Teachers get a laptop, a week of training during the summer, and ongoing support throughout the year. This year, I'm renewing; which means I had to have a project…no problem as I'm doing blogs. The support from the New Lab has been fantastic.
A.B. Your class blogs are awesome! How would one go about using blogs as a project?
I suggest first reading blogs for a while, start your own so you get used to them. If you are very technologically-savvy then perhaps go into student blogs; but only if you are ready to spend time on it. I also have a terrific tech team supporting me. If you haven't that, check out some of the sites with blog software specifically designed for schools. Classblogmeister, I've noticed is used a lot by the schools I know that also have student blogs like mine.
A.B. What blogs do you read and recommend for other educators? <UPDATED – Please visit Monica's Blog, educating alice, Here>
Thanks to Monica and feel free to email me if you have questions for her. firstname.lastname@example.org