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How-To: Incorporate Media into Your Classroom
Technology - Past and Present   Judy Jones

When I started teaching in 1966, we didn't even have telephones in our classrooms. When I wanted to call parents or arrange field trips, I went to the faculty lounge to wait in line for the single phone that was there.

I typed my handouts on ditto masters using an electric portable typewriter. When I made mistakes, I had to scrape the purple material off the ditto and tear off a little piece from another master to insert and retype over my mistake. Then I took the ditto master, placed it carefully on a big drum. I made sure that the machine was full of "ditto fluid" and had paper and then I hand-cranked the machine to run off my copies!

I kept my grades in a teacher attendance grade book. At least we had calculators to do the tedious adding and dividing to derive periodic grades to report to students. I would write out individual reports for students once in a while just to keep them informed - however, the key phrase is "once in a while" since the process was too time consuming to repeat very often.

Movies were shown on 16mm projectors. One of our required skills for graduation with an MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) was to give evidence that we knew how to thread and operate one of these beasts! And when we did not have an appropriate video, we might be lucky and have a film loop with sound!

Now fast forward 37 years! Here I am with three computers in my classroom all connected to a network with easy access to the internet, a projection device with a computer on a cart, a microscope with a camera and a monitor, a phone, and software to accomplish attendance, grades, lesson preparation, etc. (Sometimes I wonder if I am better off or not. Technology has generated a lot more work!) However, there are several improvements that are important to me and (if you are not already doing this) might be useful to you.

As a high school teacher with 100-140 students each year, communication with parents has always been difficult to accomplish. E-mail has made a huge difference in this communication. For the last couple of years, I have asked each of my students to obtain their parents' email addresses. I have discovered that almost all of my parents have at least one email address through their workplaces. And if not, our parents can use school computers in our library or in the city public library. With a free Yahoo account, they are ready to hear from me. (If I ever have a family with no email and no desire to have one, I make sure to call.) I place all the parent emails into a mailing list. Then when there is a test coming up or a project that is due, I can give my parents a "heads-up" so that they will know what they should be looking for at home.

I make sure that these messages home are fun and upbeat. I keep the tone light, informative, and supportive of their children. I also do not deluge parents with emails.

I teach both freshmen (biology 1) and seniors (biology 2). I philosophically believe that we should be moving young people developmentally toward independence. Therefore, I keep my parent and student email list combined for my 9th grade students. Anything I email to them as a group will go to their parents also. However, with my seniors, I keep a student mail list and a parent mail list. Almost all of my messages in these classes are to the students - infrequent reminders about due dates or changes in plans. I have found the students are very responsive to these communications and will write me back with issues that they are facing. I use the parent email list to tell them about exciting labs we have done or to request chaperones for field trips. I also use the list to ask for speakers on various topics - this has been extremely successful!

My big achievement (given my primitive technological past) this year was to create a webpage. I spent many hours pouring over "Dreamweaver for Dummies" trying to figure out how to produce the results I wanted. Believe me, figuring out Dreamweaver was not easy!

But finally, when school started, I was ready. I invite you to check it out.


On my webpage, I keep information about the courses I teach as well as updated schedules for my students (and parents) to check. Most of you young teachers are much more technologically savvy than I am and probably already have a website. However, for those of you who don't, I encourage you to try. After I get proficient at managing the current rendition, I hope to make the webpage even more useful. One idea I have is to create links to their assignments on the syllabus page so that they can download the handouts. Then they can do these on their computers and send them to me as email attachments. In addition, I can give them tips about good Internet sites for their research; these sites can be easy links on my webpage. My next immediate plan is to put some interesting biological "factoids" on the website that will occur as test questions. I hope this will encourage use of the website by my students. I see many other potential uses for teacher webpages. I invite you to email me and let me know some of the creative uses you have discovered.

In the end, I represent a big span of time in the development of technology. When I was in college and took computer programming, the computers filled an entire large room and we submitted our programs in the form of a box of "do not fold, spindle, or mutilate" cards. Today, tiny PDAs can hold amazing amounts of information and can link people to the Internet and to their email. They are tucked easily into a pocket. Our challenge as educators is to find uses for this technology that truly improve student performance. Certainly, technology has changed how I communicate with parents and students.

Please share you ideas with me  via e-mail.


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