February 8, 2011

Get Inspired by Innovative School Programs

Filed under: February 2011 — mbrown @ 1:06 pm

A great way to find inspiration about how to motivate students to excel in the classroom is to look at programs that are implementing innovative teaching strategies at their schools. The programs listed below are experiencing great success in creating confident, ambitious, lifelong learners who are dedicated to developing the skills they need to succeed in college and their future careers.

Technology Rich Classrooms
Elementary school classrooms across Kansas have been transformed into highly engaging and interactive learning environments thanks to an innovative program called Technology Rich Classrooms (TRC). In 2003, the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), ALTEC, and Wexford set out to provide evidence that a technology-rich learning environment, combined with ongoing professional development, can significantly improve student learning in the areas of math, reading, and science. Since its inception, TRC has transformed 228 classrooms in 80 school districts into technology-rich learning environments for students in grades three through six.

Each TRC classroom is first equipped with the minimum technology requirements needed to successfully implement the program: a 2:1 student to computer ratio, Interactive whiteboard, Media projector, Digital still camera, Printer, Scanner, Internet access, and Software to support instruction and curriculum projects. Teachers then participate in a web-enhanced lesson-planning course called TRC Boot camp. They leave boot camp with the essential skills they need to begin using the technology in their classroom in effective ways. They are then provided with ongoing professional development, resources, and support so they continue to grow their skills and implement them in new and exciting ways with their students. Visit the TRC Web site to find videos, lessons, online resources, professional development resources, funding opportunities, and complete details about the program.

New Tech Network
The New Tech Network is a project that was established in 1999 with the goal of creating innovative and technologically-advanced high schools that foster lifelong learners who succeed academically. Today, with help from KnowledgeWorks and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the New Tech Network has expanded to support 62 high schools in 14 states. These schools currently boast a 100% acceptance rate for students who applied to two-year colleges and an 85% acceptance rate for students who applied to four-year colleges.

The video library at the New Tech Network Web site consists of classroom experiences, teacher, student, and alumni interviews, research, results, and success stories. The blog and collection of articles outline their model of success which centers around project-based learning. Lessons are designed to involve real-world applications that keep students from ever having to ask “Why am I learning this?”

High Tech High
High Tech High began in 2000 as a single charter school designed to reduce the digital divide and increase the number of woman and ethnic-minority groups entering the fields of math, science, and engineering. It has now expanded to include nine schools, and 3500 K-12 students.  Currently 100% of graduates who have applied have been accepted to college, 80% to four year institutions.

The learning environment at HTH students with the community partnering with local businesses and organizations to expose students to real work experiences. HTH is also committed to providing a technology rich environment for academic studies, and an ethnically diverse population of students. The diverse population of students are admitted by a zip-code-based lottery. The HTH campuses are designed to be flexible to facilitate team teaching, project-based learning, and exhibit student work. More than 2000 administrators, business people, and parents visit HTH’s campuses each year to see their model of academic success. Visit the Web site to learn more about HTH, view student projects, videos, published student books and Web sites.

While TRC is funded in part by Title II.D funding, High Tech High and New Tech Network began with funding from a coalition of local businesses and through proven success were able to secure more funding and expand to what they are today. Take a moment not only to examine the valuable resources on the Web sites but also consider touring one of the schools to see their programs in action or contacting school administrators to find teachers you can correspond with to ask questions, share ideas, and perhaps implement a similar program at your own school.

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