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Wired@School: 20 Teaching Units at Your Fingertips!

The Wired@School Web page -- part of a terrific on-line resource from The Franklin Institute of Science -- grows each year, thanks to the efforts of the institute's special fellowship program. This week, Franklin Fellow and Education World writer Hazel Jobe introduces her fellow Fellows and the great on-line teaching units that each has created. Included: More than 20 units -- full of great lessons and activities -- that every teacher should know about! Units about the ocean, rocks, Native Americans, sound, and much more!

"We watched as certain educators emerged as leaders, developing innovative educational resources on [their] school Web sites. We thought it would be wonderful to form an alliance with those teachers who were ahead of the curve, motivated to try new things, and so very enthusiastic about using technology. It did not take long to assemble a list of potential friends. The list was sprinkled with names that have since become legendary in the on-line educational world."

Those are the words of Karen Elinich, director of educational technology programs at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia. Elinich and her technology team at the museum began watching the Web in 1994. For several years, they observed from afar a couple of handfuls of pioneer teachers who were among the first to settle the new world of educational technology and make a special place there for themselves and for their students.

Then, in 1998, the FI technology team made the leap! They pulled together nine dynamic educators -- hand-selected from diverse backgrounds and school situations, based on the exemplary work they were already publishing on the Web -- and anointed each a "Franklin Fellow." Together, those nine Fellows went on to create one of the most interesting places on the Internet, the Franklin Institute's Wired@School Web pages for teachers and students.


When Franklin Institute personnel approached the museum's corporate partner, Unisys Corporation, with the idea of forming the On-Line Fellows Program "it was an easy sell," recalled Elinich. "When we explained that we'd be partnering with nine of the best and brightest leaders in the educational technology community, Unisys provided the support for the program in year one and now provides the continuation funding that allows us to grow the program and expand our initiative."

All the Fellows are veteran teachers who brought to the Web team a unique perspective. Each Fellow was expected to produce three Web resources during the 1998-99 school year. The Fellows were given the freedom to choose their own topics for publication; but they were requested to devote one of those resources to an earth science theme. The nine Fellows and the resources they created that year can be seen on the Wired@School site.

The Wired@School collection of resources represents "an amazing return on the investment," Elinich told Education World. "The body of work represents a wide spectrum of thinking. Teachers who are just now arriving in the on-line educational world have, at their fingertips, a guidebook to help them find their way and make a place for themselves."


The fellowship program has proved to be beneficial to the Franklin Institute, the Fellows, and educators everywhere:
  • The institute added more educational resources for teachers and students to its already successful TFI On-Line Web site.
  • The individual Fellows had the opportunity to expand their own skills and knowledge of Web publishing with the support of the TFI Web team.
  • A large audience of teachers can benefit from the Fellows' published works at TFI On-Line.

As a first-grade teacher at Loogootee Elementary West in Loogootee, Indiana, Tammy Payton wanted to "create information [resources] that captured the possibilities that the Web can offer.

"Some of these dynamic activities required programming language that I did not have the expertise to write," Payton told Education World. The institute staff provided the support to make her ideas come to life in published features. Her resources on the TFI site include Rocky the Rock Hound, Empowering Student Learning With Web Publishing, and China. (Payton is on sabbatical this school year and is working with the Buddy Project.)

Of the many benefits the fellowships offer, the one that holds the most importance for all the Fellows is the opportunity to network with other educators who have similar goals and dreams for using technology to its fullest. The group meets twice each year at the museum in Philadelphia to share ideas, learn from each other, and plan their work.


Carla Schutte, another Fellow, is a computer specialist at Moton Elementary School in Port Richey, Florida. "It can be very lonely when you seem to be the only one in your school or school district who tries to see the bigger picture -- how the Internet, technology use, and engaged students can be a powerful mix," Schutte told Education World. The museum, its business partners, and the Fellows have formed a partnership that serves as a model for others to follow, added Schutte, who is proud to be a part of this pioneering effort.

"It demonstrates to me how these types of partnerships can and will make a difference for educators and their students," Schutte added.

Schutte's published resources include Videoconferencing for Educators, Wildlife Ambassadors, and Have You Seen the Wind?

Susan Silverman splits her time at Clinton Avenue School in Port Jefferson Station, New York, as a second-grade teacher and a computer resource teacher. Mrs. Silverman's Second Grade Class hosts many collaborative projects that she has done with her second graders.

"Long before the Franklin Institute offered me a fellowship, I enjoyed working with educators who are now Franklin Fellows on a variety of Internet projects," said Silverman. "They became my role models and inspired me to coordinate my own Internet projects.

"The Franklin Fellows are creative, innovative, and fun!" added Silverman. "I love working with and learning from these dedicated, technologically savvy educators."


Pattie Knox is the technology support specialist for North Canton (Ohio) City Schools. "How enriching it has been to meet people from around the world who have been so instrumental in bringing quality education to the on-line community," Knox told Education World. "The program has given me the opportunity to learn from and share with educators who share my belief in the power of on-line education."

"Becoming a Franklin Fellow was the first suggestion that I might be able to extend my teaching assistance to teachers beyond my school," said Franklin Fellow Gail Watson, a computer technologist at John F. Pattie Elementary School in Dumfries, Virginia. "It was exciting to meet other people I have known by reputation for years, and it was even more thrilling to be planning projects with them," Watson told Education World. Watson's TFI resources include Journey II the Center of the Earth, Native Americans, and Computer Labs.

Paul Myers, an eighth-grade science teacher at Cucamonga Middle School in Rancho Cucamonga, California, told Education World that the fellowship has helped him in several ways. "It allowed me to expand my knowledge of graphics and HTML authoring," said Myers. "I might not have done that if I hadn't been 'stretched' by the institute to create new resources for the Web.

"It's been a positive and rewarding experience for me both personally and professionally," added Myers, whose TFI resources include Computer Drawing and Animation, Operation Webfoot, and El Nio and La Nia.

Paulette Dukerich, a fourth-grade teacher at Bethune Academy in Houston, Texas, published The Story of Flight, Basic Oil Primer, and Sound. "Publishing on the Internet is a great way to get and keep students interested in learning," explains Dukerich. "The On-Line Fellowship has given me the opportunity to expand that base for my students."


Although all of the fellows shared and collaborated, most of the resources were produced individually. But three of the Fellows -- Karen Walkowiak, Robert Owens, and yours truly (the author of this article, Hazel Jobe) -- broke new ground by carrying the collaboration one-step further. Using ICQ, a free communication application for on-line planning meetings, the Fellows produced two of their resources collaboratively. Shamrock Lane is a complete integrated unit for the intermediate grades based on a St. Patrick's Day theme. (An Internet Collaborative Model, an article written by Walkowiak that describes the collaborative process, is included in that feature.) And Something Froggy is an on-line storybook that explains the life cycle of the frog. The storybook has primary and junior versions.

Walkowiak says she is "honored to be the only Canadian on the team. She says of her year as a Fellow, "The opportunity to collaborate and mentor has been an enriching experience for me, facilitating a forum for the sharing of both technological and curriculum expertise." Her individual feature on TFI is Wonders of Space. (Walkowiak was a sixth-grade teacher at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Kanata, Ontario, Canada; this year she is working with the Nectar Foundation to produce a language-based curriculum CD.)

Robert Owens teaches fourth grade at Marie D. Durand Elementary School in Vineland, New Jersey. "The TFI on-line fellowship has provided an opportunity to work with educators who have created the measure by which all other education sites are compared," said Owens. "To be part of the process in which this measure is pushed higher is an honor as well as a joy. My work is better because of those with whom I am able to work." Owens's other resources are The Delaware Estuary Project and Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, which teaches mathematical concepts.


Michael Lipinski, the technology coordinator at Erving (Massachusetts) Elementary School, published Some Thoughts on the Use of the Internet in Schools, Which Pennies Are Still in Circulation?, and Sim City 2000.

Article by Hazel Jobe
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Updated 09/03/03