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The Simple Joys of Technology: A Tale from Camelot (Idaho)

Technology Center

"The kids are really excited about technology. They have no fear and just get right in there and go!" says Debbie Kuntz, the computer technologist at Camelot Elementary School. Camelot's teachers are equally excited about using technology in their classroom activities, which is a quality that has earned the school the title of one of the country's 100 Top Wired Schools. What can your school learn from the tale of Camelot? Included: Camelot's teachers and kids share their technology experiences!


Technology Integration Advice from Camelot's Debbie Kuntz

Debbie Kuntz, computer technologist at Camelot Elementary, has a friend who holds the same position at another school. "She was having a hard time getting her staff to start using technology in new ways and not just for games and drill and practice," Kuntz tells Education World. "I told her to find one or two teachers who would be open to an idea. As others see what you are doing, they will want to do some of those same things."

Not too long after that conversation, Kuntz got a call from her worried colleague. She called to say that Kuntz's advice had created a monster! "She has gone from having not much to do to not being able to keep up with all the new and wonderful projects that are starting," says Kuntz. "It's one of those problems you like to have!"

Kuntz has more thoughts about building a school technology program:
* Keep in mind that where technology is concerned, the only limit is our imagination.
* Don't be afraid. As you begin to use technology more, you will become more comfortable and confident.
* If you are a technologist, offer lots of training and support for your staff. Sometimes all someone needs is an idea planted or a little nudge and the projects will avalanche. If you are a teacher, take advantage of the training provided.

"Having the technology and knowing how to use and how to implement it is what makes our staff so successful in capitalizing on its benefits," explains Debbie Kuntz of Camelot Elementary School in Lewiston, Idaho.

In April, Camelot was named one of the 100 Top Wired Schools in the U.S. by Family PC and Homeroom.com.

"I feel that technology allows all students to be successful," says Kuntz. "It motivates reluctant learners who might not shine otherwise. It opens many new doors for learning experiences and ideas.

"Technology is here to stay -- and the more proficient we and our students become, the better," Kuntz adds.

'IF EVER I WOULD LEAVE YOU' ... IT COULDN'T BE IN COMPUTER CLASS

One of the keys to Camelot's technological success is its affiliation with the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, an organization that promotes improvement in Idaho's schools. Two years ago, Camelot was selected as one of 15 schools in the state to receive a high-tech lab. The lab is used as a training center during the summer and some days during the school year.

"Everyone is really excited about technology and very motivated to use all they are learning," says Kuntz, a 23-year veteran of education. "We offer a lot of technology training in our building. I try to offer one class each semester as well as workshops throughout the year."

As the computer technologist, Kuntz spends her entire day in the computer lab. "It is the best job in the world," she says. "It is always changing and exciting. It is really great to be the class that all the kids want to go to and don't like it when they have to miss!"

In the state of Idaho, all teachers must pass a technology competency exam and receive a certificate. Camelot was one of the first schools in the state to have its entire staff certified.

All Camelot's teachers are now integrating technology into the curriculum in one way or another. The focus is on process, not application or platform, so students are well rounded in their technology skills.

'HOW TO HANDLE A ...' COMPUTER

Each student at Camelot has a Web page for displaying schoolwork. The idea for student Web pages came to Kuntz last summer. "I was really down because I felt out of touch with my two granddaughters and what they were doing in school," Kuntz recalls. "I thought it would be really great if I could stay in touch with their school projects on the Internet." That didn't happen, but it gave Kuntz the idea!

"If I could make one other grandmother happy, all the hours I put in would be worth it," says Kuntz, who strives to have each student publish a new page to his or her Web site each month.

At Camelot, every child is involved with technology.

  • Kindergarten through second-grade students become familiar with the keyboard and drawing tools.
  • In first and second grade, students begin to use the Internet and create multimedia projects.
  • Third- and fourth-grade students continue learning more about multimedia and research and begin to learn about Web page authoring.
  • By the time the students are in fifth and sixth grade, they are experienced in multimedia and do two or three major projects a year.
The students also publish an online newspaper. They usually publish only two to four newspapers per year, but Kuntz says the kids truly enjoy the work.


'I WONDER WHAT THE [KIDS IN SINGAPORE] ARE DOING TONIGHT'

'What Do the Simple Folk Do?'

Students at Camelot Elementary tell Education World how computers add to their learning:

* "We made Web pages, rain forest books, webs with Inspiration, and monsters. We use cameras too. We have pen pals and we use e-mail."
-- Kayla K., grade 3

* "We use our computers for research for reports. We use programs on the computers for writing our assignments. Sometimes we talk to people from other places and see them when we talk to them."
-- Betsy H., grade 6

* "The most interesting project I've done is our special interest project. Casey, Devion, and I did it on BMX riding. We used the Internet for information and Microsoft Word for the writing. Then we put it all in HyperStudio and showed it on the SmartBoard."
-- Matt A., grade 6

* "My favorite project was making M&M graphs on a spreadsheet. We got to pick the colors, put in pictures and most of all eat the M&Ms!"
-- Kristina L., grade 5

* "I love to go to the after-school newspaper club every Monday. We publish a newspaper on the Internet about our school and what is going on in and around it."
-- Aimee S., grade 6

The pervasive use of technology in the building makes everyone, students included, more comfortable with it. "The kids have no fear," observes Kuntz. "I am constantly learning new things from students."

The school is even set up to do live videoconferencing. The students have opportunities to meet children from other schools, cities, states, and countries. Two groups of fifth-grade classes recently conferenced with a group of educators in Singapore. "It was an awesome opportunity for those kids to see and hear how education works in another country," says Kuntz.

'THEN YOU MAY TAKE ME TO THE ...' COMPUTER LAB

Suzanne Marks, a fifth-grade teacher at Camelot, has her students doing multimedia projects and reports, working on keyboarding skills, and using writing tools.

Marks credits Kuntz's training and experience with the success of Camelot's technology program. "She can troubleshoot, debug, devirus, and enhance any computer on this campus," Marks says. "She keeps the hardware, software, and 'peopleware' up-to-date and in the know."

"Currently, my sixth-grade students help a first-grade class with typing and introductions to HyperStudio applications," explains Warren Beckman, another Camelot educator. By the time those youngsters are in sixth grade, they don't just want to learn, says Beckman, "they want to teach and give back so that the smaller kids will be successful."

Kindergarten teacher Vicki Izenhower says that the technology education of her students often begins even before their first day of school. Camelot offers a summer computer camp for currently enrolled students as well as preschoolers entering kindergarten in the fall. The future students gain useful skills, making them better prepared for kindergarten.

Camelot's administrators and faculty have a positive attitude toward technology, Izenhower says. "Our parent organization also recognizes the importance of technology and readily contributes funds to enhance our inventory."



 

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2001 Education World



 

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