Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

The Next Step

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

The Next Step

Article excerpt

With almost all schools online, the big challenge for districts now is to incorporate the Internet into everyday use.

For two weeks this summer, New Brunswick, N.J., third-grade teacher Diane Neal ate nuts from Palmito trees and berries from Jaboticaba tree trunks in Brazil's rainforest. She watched monkey-like capachins and pig-like peccaries roam the forest.

As part of an Earth Watch Expedition made possible by a fellowship for New Jersey teachers, Neal gained a greater appreciation for the vast land, which is being torn down in the name of business.

Now it's time to share these experiences--first-hand--with her 21 third-grade students at Woodrow Wilson School. Neal, 48, can do that with more depth now that the school district of New Brunswick is connected to the Internet.

In a lesson titled Research, Respect, Rescue the Rainforest, Neal will have her students go online and see digital photographs of wildlife and fauna she saw, find organizations that are involved in preserving the rain forest, and find every rain forest on the planet--at the touch of a few buttons from class.

"It's a first-hand kind of experience that generates a lot of excitement," she says. "And I view the Internet as an important and viable tool to enhance students' learning and help them access information that may not be readily available in a book."

"It's a very fascinating phenomena and I think it should be used more and more in the classroom," she adds.

And it will, soon, educators say.

THE INTERNET INTEGRATION

While computers have been around for years, the world of the Internet has only recently opened up in school districts across the nation. Five years ago, the New Brunswick, N.J., school district joined in. And now, they have a plan that incorporates using the Internet as a daily learning tool.

"The main thing with the integration of technology into the classroom is that whole MTV generation," says Brian Auker, the district's technology coordinator. "Kids want to see that really `Wow' impressive thing. And it holds the kids' attention much more. ... It's just a freer way of thinking about learning."

In one program, an eighth-grade teacher had students follow a man's around-the-world journey on his sailboat. The students followed his progress online as he posted stories about the trip and found his destinations on a map. They learned not only about geography, but about animals and plants in the places he had seen.

Superintendent of Schools Ronald Larkin says he started seriously considering the Internet in school after attending workshops examining the best way to integrate computers and the Internet in school.

"Five years ago, our goal was to integrate computers in every classroom," he says. "And it makes sense. The teachable moment is lost if you don't have access to the worldwide learning process. You can't do that next Thursday in computer lab. It's more immediate and it keeps the enthusiasm going."

Penelope Lattimer, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, says that in her research in labor and workplace conditions, she learned the importance of students being able to apply literacy with the use of technology.

"Whether you are working in an office, in billing, in engineering, or your primary responsibility was through reading and writing to represent your organization, everyone was looking at you to do it by manipulating technology," she says.

But she stresses that the Internet is only one source of information and does not replace other sources, like textbooks and encyclopedias.

TYING IT TOGETHER

The district had help planning its Internet connection with contract vendor TransNet, a Branchburg, N.J., computer information systems integrator.

First, the district was tied in with the district-wide area network or WAN, in which communication via computers was possible between the various schools. …

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