If you find yourself struggling to keep up with the latest technology – I'm just now learning to load songs onto my iPhone – you'll be as impressed as I was with what's going on at Page Elementary School.
The Belmont school for pre-kindergarten through first grade challenges its children to use forward-thinking technology such as Smart Boards and PowerPoint software. Students go to the school's top-notch computer lab several times a week and make PowerPoint presentations.
Principal Mark Fisher, who calls himself a “techno geek,” keeps parents and staff informed with a blog on the school's Web site.
At the end of the year, youngsters take home a CD with a year's worth of projects on it.
“I've got an attic full of paper from my kids' years in school,” says Fisher. “How neat is it to have that on CD?”
Technology teaches children useful applications they can use as adults, familiarizes them with the latest hardware and software and, most importantly, keeps them engaged in learning.
“I went to a classroom where the teacher was using a Smart Board and every single child had their hand raised, wanting to participate,” he says. “How many times do you see that? It's awesome.”
Page Elementary also recognizes educators who integrate technology into their classrooms.
Kristen Perrier was recently named the school's teacher of the year by her fellow educators. The pre-kindergarten teacher volunteers as the Page yearbook sponsor, serves on the PTO advisory board and trains other teachers in the latest technology as a pinnacle leader.
As a pinnacle leader, Perrier received a Smart Board, an interactive tool that allows her to teach with a touch-sensitive screen connected to a computer and digital projector. She can write notes in digital ink and control computer applications from the large, white Smart Board. Some systems also let participants write on electronic tablets and log in answers with hand-held keypads that show the teacher how many students chose the correct answer.
“Ms. Perrier is like a technology expert for our school,” says Fisher. “We bought a few Smart Boards last year and many of our teachers weren't excited about learning how to use them. But with the extra effort and time on Ms. Perrier's part, now teachers can go to her for help with the latest technology.”
Nikki Toomey, a first-grade teacher at Page, also won kudos with the “Day Made Better” award from Office Max. Toomey was cited for going the extra mile to help children and for serving on the school improvement team and PTO Advisory Board. She won more than $1,000 in supplies, including a camera and leather chair.
“Her classroom is amazing,” says Fisher, who nominated Toomey for the award. “Student art work is on display everywhere. It's the kind of place you'd love for your child to be. It's so conducive to learning.”
Toomey, says Fisher, is a hard worker who is dedicated and often stays late after school. She also serves as a grade-level facilitator, a liaison between administrators and teachers.
In addition to encouraging Page educators to embrace the latest technology, Fisher takes on that challenge himself.
He uses a Palm Pilot to do teacher evaluations so staff members don't have to de-code his “atrocious” handwriting. He captures memories with a digital camera and just updated his first-generation iPod. Last year, Fisher started a blog, an online journal that he uses as a school newsletter.
The Page Web site is www.gaston.k12.nc.us/ schools/page.