Linda Harpine: Opening Doors for Children through Technology Education

Article excerpt

For twenty-eight years, Mrs. Linda Harpine has welcomed smiling faces into her classroom on the first day of school. Linda is a creative educator who has successfully integrated technology education activities into her curriculum for more than eight years. She is a second grade teacher at Ottobine Elementary School in rural Rockingham County, Virginia and she has spent her entire 28-year teaching career in this community, 22 of which have been at this K-5 school.

Linda has been a dedicated teacher. In 1998 she received the well-deserved honor of Elementary Technology Teacher of the Year from the Virginia Technology Education Association (VTEA). She was also recognized nationally in the spring of 1999 at the International Technology Education Association (ITEA) conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.

When asked about her teaching philosophy, Linda said that she believes that education is a child's "doorway to the world." She thinks that as an educator, it is the teacher's job to open that door for young children and provide them with opportunities to explore beyond the door. Before they can successfully step into the unknown, the students need to know that their classroom is a safe and supportive environment. Linda strongly feels that the classroom is a place to take chances, to experiment, to succeed, to fail and to "try again." Here expectations are set so that each child will want to produce quality work. She emphasizes that as students set out to explore their world, they need to develop basic skills in reading, math, spelling, the writing process, science, technology, and social studies. It is important for the teacher to set up "problems" along the way for the students to solve using a "handson," design technology approach. This provides an opportunity for the application of basic skills, cooperative work, research, creative thought, experimentation, testing, documentation, evaluation, and fun. As a teacher of young children and a guide on their learning journey, she hopes to enable them to become, as Dr. Harvey Dean (1997) suggests in his book Changing Education, ". . . whole human beings, self-aware individuals with knowledge of and appreciation for their culture, their history, their society, and the future of their children . . . . they will need to be technologically aware, well educated to the basics, and active participators in life . . ." (p. 21 ).

Using technology education in her classroom, Linda engages students in hands-on activities that prepare them for the everyday problems they will encounter in the real world. For example, after reading the story, "The List" by Arnold Lobel in Frog and Toad Together (1970), students first write a list of their day's activities. The students then build a list holder that they wear all day so that their hands are free and the list does not blow away as it did in the story. These list holders are usually made from recycled materials. Some of the solutions have included list holders that the children wear around their waists, necks, or even as backpacks.

Linda has incorporated technology education into her classroom for eight years using a variety of techniques. She includes technology activities along with reading, math, science, social studies, spelling, and the writing process. Throughout the year, teaching and learning take place through units of study based on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs). The Virginia SOLs are state-wide curriculum guidelines for core subjects mandated by the Virginia State Department of Education. Linda Harpine (personal communication, summer 1999) reflects that:

Within each unit, relevant technology issues are discussed and the total class is presented with a Design Technology problem to solve. This activity is intended to involve all students in our heterogeneously grouped classroom and allows them to apply knowledge they have gained on the topic. As the students work in cooperative groups, they are able to apply creative thinking to a `hands on' activity. …