Students Learn By Using Technology Driven Program

Convinced that technology is the key to engaging reluctant learners, two teachers, one from Michigan and one from Florida, have teamed up to bring two schools 1,100 miles apart from one another together.  Jennifer Strickland, an English teacher at Laingsburg High School, and Annette Klabuhn, a reading teacher at Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, devised a plan to collaborate through technology to bridge the classrooms.  For one week, March 10 through March 15, Klabuhn and Strickland co-taught lessons together in the Laingsburg classroom, interacted with the students together, and used Skype to communicate with and educate the Florida students, as well. This collaborative effort was made possible through an NEA Student Achievement Grant that will fund the substitute cost at the two schools.

This technology driven program incorporates Google applications, Edmodo, iMovie, SMARTboards, and iPads. Students collaborate in groups paired by gender, each consisting of students from Laingsburg and Choctawhatchee, using Edmodo to provide a balance of contemporary literature and informational text.  The teachers evaluate and return assignments on-line; thus creating a “paperless” classroom. This gender-based approach allows the lessons to be tailored to gender preferences and learning styles.

Klabuhn, the Florida 2011 Reading Teacher of the Year, teaches students that are considered at-risk in reading. 

"The purpose of our program is not to just teach with technology, but to use technology to convey content more powerfully and efficiently," said Klabuhn.  “We want our students to stretch on their mental tiptoes. Our purposeful use of technology allows us to engage the iGeneration that is immersed in technology 24/7.  The focus of the unit assignments will prepare these reluctant readers for the administration of the PARCC and SMARTER Balance assessments linked to the Common Core Standards (CCSS).”

"Technology opens up our curriculum to ensure students graduate with the knowledge and skills most demanded by college and careers," reiterated Strickland, a 2007 Education Excellence in Education Award winner.  "Students at Laingsburg have attended the same schools since kindergarten; Choctawhatchee High School has several middle schools that feed into it.  There are more students in Choctawhatchee than there are in the entire Laingsburg School District.  Choctawhatchee has an airplane and hanger whereas Laingsburg has a farm with animals.  Choctawhatchee High School has over 1700 very diverse students with a strong military influence and nearly 110 teachers; whereas, Laingsburg High School has only 400 students and 18 teachers.  This combination brings together the diverse cultures into the same virtual class. These students learn from each other beyond the instruction.”

Strickland recently reciprocated by traveling to Florida to co-teach in Klabuhn's class for a week. 

"I am excited for the students,” said Strickland.  “I have gotten to know a few students in Florida through the weekly Skype sessions, but now I actually get to work with them and use Skype to teach my class back home, as well.”

Strickland is no stranger to Choctawhatchee.  She originally taught English and speech at Choctawhatchee from 1994 to 2002. 

"I am overjoyed to be co-teaching with Ms. Klabuhn again and have the opportunity to return to Big Green Territory,” said Strickland.