Evanston Township High School has been busy upgrading and expanding its capabilities in information technology in ways that span the District from the classroom to student activities, parent and community information and infrastructure, according to a report presented to the Board on Sept. 7.
“We want to use technology to engage students and facilitate learning, to prepare students for the digital age, to enhance communication … with parents … as well as expand collaboration among teachers and staff and increase community awareness,” said Paula Frohman, director of technology. “And in line with our goals of race and equity we have targeted technology to benefit … our struggling students,” she added.Classroom Technology
David Chan, technology integration specialist, introduced a wide range of classroom technologies which have been implemented in the last year.
He also said that during the coming year, several teachers would be opening up their classrooms to demonstrate their use of technology to others in the building and in the Evanston community.Google Apps
A major innovation that Mr. Chan announced is that after a pilot project involving 120 students last year, this year more than 600 students are using Google Apps, “anytime, anywhere applications” (such as email, document development or internal discussion boards) through cloud computing.
With cloud computing, all information is stored on the web and can be accessed from home or anywhere else with Internet access, such as a library, a coffee shop or a community center. He said all students have been provided with an ETHS e-mail address through this software.
“This gives everyone a voice,” said Mr. Chan, referring to the internal discussion boards. “Students who may not be willing to share something in class may feel more comfortable in the discussion board environment,” he added.
Hilda Raisner, English teacher, echoed Mr. Chan’s assessment of the value of Google Apps. “Students can create in real time,” she said. “They are paying closer attention to the text.” Also, she said she believes the software provides more opportunity for equity: “It levels the playing field. They can be accessed from anywhere.”
Applied sciences and technologies teacher Darlene Gordon says her students blog about topics discussed in her Contemporary Adult Life class. Students viewed a classic film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” and blogged about their responses to its topic of interracial dating and marriage, she said.
“Students might not talk about a controversial topic in class, but they will blog about it,” Ms. Gordon told the Board.
Mr. Chan emphasized that all material students produce in “the cloud” is “internal and not searchable” from the web in general.
Students in the Ambassadors mentoring program now have the opportunity to communicate with each other through the new website created and managed by students, said Alicia Hart, advisor to the program.
Mr. Chan also reported that the number of teachers with websites has more than doubled, from 40 to 90, “and I’m getting calls for help on more everyday,” he said.Hardware Innovations
Other classroom enhancements include SMARTBoards currently in use in such diverse departments as physical education, special education science and MathLab.
“I’ve been able to appeal to students who like to get up and participate in an activity,” said Ms. Hart, who also teaches special education biology, in reference to the value of SMARTBoards. “The ability to manipulate words … or visuals without having to write a long sentence that you then have to correct [is valuable.] … Some students feel more comfortable when there’s not the fear of failure.” Ms. Hart emphasized the independence that the technology provides for students by letting them correct themselves through interaction with the technology.
Students in Tamie Holmes’ reading enriched classes have been benefiting from the use of Netbooks, mini-laptop computers. Administrators said students in these classes are often those with the least access to technology outside of school.
Last year, 30 of these computers were used in classrooms; this year that number has quadrupled.
“Student motivation has increased and they are becoming partners in the process of their own education,” Ms. Holmes told the Board.
Two other programs have provided computers for students who otherwise would not have them in their homes. Baccet Levy, technology services manager, told the Board that through the Youth Technology Corps, an organization that trains students to refurbish computers and then donates them back to the community, 30-50 desktop computers have been distributed. Also, ETHS has the student laptop loaner program, which makes 30 laptop computers available to students who need them.School-Community
Several new technology initiatives launched this year can be accessed by parents and the community as a whole, Ms. Frohman said.
The new website will enhance communication and increase access to school resources, said Jevhon McKinzie, ETHS webmaster, who presented the new D202 website.
He pointed out several features of the new website, including social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds and YouTube, as well as an enhanced search tool, an interactive calendar, updated news items and a daily calendar.
Midge Stocker, information services manager, presented several enhancement to Home Access Center (HAC). Enhancements include an area where parents can track their child’s disciplinary records, property tracking where students can register property so lost items can be returned to the proper owner, and System of Supports enrollment and attendance records.
In addition, administrators announced the implementation of Alert Now, a new automated phone call system that will contact parents and students about both emergency and non-emergency events. Of particular importance in the non-emergency area, said Ms. Frohman, is that reminders for required AM Support attendance will now be delivered via Alert Now.
Ms. Frohman encouraged the Board and the community to learn more about the new technology innovations at ETHS, either through the 10 classroom demonstrations throughout the year, through involvement on the Technology Advisory Committee or through a personal visit, which can be arranged by calling her. The
ETHS telephone number is 847-424-7000.