Six schools highlight how others can connect service and technology to transform learning.
WASHINGTON — Jan. 25, 2010 — Today, Microsoft Corp. and the Corporation for National and Community Service announced six schools — from California, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia — selected to participate in the Service & Technology Academic Resource Team (START). The initiative recognizes the leadership shown by youth and teachers in schools across America who are working together in meaningful ways to revitalize learning, schools and communities through the use of technology.
START redefines the role of the student in the classroom and creates a new kind of collaboration between students and teachers through technology-focused service-learning. The goal is to utilize the technology skills of students to partner with teachers and determine where technology best fits into the learning environment. The selected schools will receive grants and serve as national laboratory sites and as examples of how schools can integrate service-learning and technology into the classroom. The schools will present their scalable best practices today for Karen Cator, director of Education Technology for the U.S. Department of Education.
“At first I wasn't sure how a project like this could work and how it could improve my students' academic outcomes. After I stepped back and let my students teach me about technology, I realized the tremendous benefits of these service-learning projects,” said Linda Clifton, principal at Tupelo Middle School. “Teachers have been amazed at the things students can do with technology and by integrating students' expertise in technology into the learning process, you give them the opportunity to expand their learning opportunities, while creating a much-needed technology support system for the teachers.”
The teachers participating in the START initiative gain valuable technology and computer skills, while their students improve their problem-solving, critical-thinking, troubleshooting and communication skill sets. For example, students at Tupelo Middle School in Tupelo, Miss., use technology to help draft learning materials for other students and classes, as well as maintain and service computers. The teachers depend on these students to do more than just keep their computers functioning; they also help them prepare instructional resources in digital formats.
“We must start thinking differently about traditional teaching and learning models and how we can prepare our students for the future,” said Mary Cullinane, director of innovation for U.S. Education at Microsoft. “Combining service opportunities with technology needs in the classroom prepares students with the 21st century skills they need today and in the future.”
“Today's students use technology throughout their daily lives, and when this knowledge is shared with teachers in a practical way, it has the potential to enhance learning experiences and outcomes for both teachers and students,” said Nicola Goren, acting CEO of the Corporation. “By tapping into students' skills and abilities, we can help improve the quality of our education system and strengthen students' academic performance.”
The selected START schools are the following:
- Winston Churchill Middle School, Carmichael, Calif. Students participating in this GenerationYes! program assist teachers with support needs ranging from software installation to the creation and implementation of content-specific lessons. Currently, 90 percent of the students in the program go into classrooms and teach their classmates about a specific subject using technology.
- Tupelo Middle School, Tupelo, Miss. Tupelo Middle School (TMS) is part of C•R•E•A•T•E for Mississippi, and 56 of its students are leaders in the Excel Tech program. Students maintain and service computers for teachers, install software, ghost machines, set up new equipment for teachers, develop PowerPoint presentations, and work on special projects for the school. TMS will become a one-to-one student to computer school in 2010–2011. The Excel Tech classes will have a major role in setting up and maintaining these 1,140 student laptops.
- Lower Eastside PS 515, New York, N.Y. The MOUSE Squad has 25 participants who routinely tutor their peers in the basics of computing and work in teams to provide custom professional development courses to faculty on evenings and weekends. Students provide technical support for their school and its assortment of handheld computers, mobile labs and standard equipment. Students use their technology skills to help design the school's yearbook cover and for detailed page design.
- East Garner Magnet Middle School, Garner, N.C. Students serving on the Students Working to Advance Technology (SWAT) team teach fellow classmates about technology in computer labs, take part in community service projects including teaching library patrons to use Microsoft Office, designing Web sites for teachers, assisting teachers with Internet research, and videotaping news broadcasts. Through the program, students are gaining technology training and leadership skills, and valuable community service experience.
- Parkway West High School, Philadelphia, Pa. With the support of the Urban Technology Project, approximately 80 10th grade students serve as “Guides by the Side.” Student experts are trained to provide project-based digital media support in kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms, including developing lesson plans, providing in-class support, working one-on-one with students in the areas of literacy, math and reading, and creating “legacy projects” to address community and school technology needs, such as tech manuals for teachers and school Web sites.
- Forest Park High School, Woodbridge, Va. The VA Star program offers students a fully integrated service-learning model including a rich IT curriculum, hands-on training to refurbish and recycle used computers, and a full spectrum of community service opportunities to meet the IT needs of the school's community.
Microsoft and the Corporation have designed the START initiative with input from 40 youth development, education and nonprofit leaders throughout the country. START is an extension of the innovative work of national leaders in the field including organizations such as GenerationYES!, MOUSE, Students Working to Advance Technology (SWAT), Urban Technology Project and C•R•E•A•T•E for Mississippi. As part of the partnership, the group plans to highlight best practices nationwide for other schools to replicate and create a virtual student-led help desk where students will support teachers and nonprofit leaders using online, phone and onsite approaches.
Videos from each of the schools that give details about their projects are available at http://vimeo.com/groups/31547. Details are available at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/education/.