SCHOOL BUILDS TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM FROM
THE GROUND UP
East Dorset, VT. June 19, 2002—Twenty Dell Optiplex computers line the
Math lab in the Mary J. Tanner School of Granville, New York. In the undersized chairs at each machine sits
a student from Jann Hoffman’s kindergarten class. As the kids click away, the computer screens
fill with of swirls of colors that look like giant lollipops, and
the room is sprinkled with phrases like “Look at mine!” and “How did
you do that?” The black computers in this lab and the 16
others in a lab down the hall have not accumulated a speck of dust
since they were installed in November, thanks to the efforts of technology
coordinator Dan Nelson and principal Kristie Gijanto.
Nelson, a native of Granville with a background
in mathematics and computer consulting, aims to transform the schools
in his hometown into models of modern educational technology. His work began with the K-2 school, whose principal,
Gijanto, shares Nelson’s vision for the future of the Granville Central
School District. Together,
Nelson and Gijanto have ensured that some of the funding by the state
and the local community for a building project is used to outfit the
Mary J. Tanner School with state-of-the-art computer labs.
While construction to double the size of the school got under way,
Nelson updated the specifications for two computer labs so that they
took advantage of the latest developments in computer technology. In search of “the best bang for the buck,”
Nelson spoke with several hardware vendors and eventually chose to
purchase directly from a Dell sales representative.
Because of his technological expertise and willingness to assume
hands-on project management, Nelson was able to set up the computer
labs for less than half the amount of money allowed by the budget.
In addition to purchasing 54 Dell systems for the Mary J. Tanner School,
Nelson ordered 12 for the high school.
Of the 66 computers purchased, not a single one has had any
problems. “I’m very impressed with Dell, “ Nelson reports, adding,
“They installed the computers in a timely fashion.”
Even before the two computer labs were completely finished, Nelson
and principal Kristie Gijanto began looking for software to install
on each system. Gijanto felt
that it was important to get the software right away so that the new
computers would not sit dormant.
Nelson agreed; “It’s nice to have all the computer technology
in the world, but if it’s not being utilized, it’s worthless.”
After making contacts with several software vendors, Nelson
and Gijanto discovered Tool Factory, a local educational software
company with over a hundred curriculum content titles and the Tool
Factory Workshop suite of tools. Tool Factory came to the Mary J. Tanner School
and installed the software titles that Nelson requested to see, and
then left the programs on the new computers for 30 days so that the
teachers could try them out. A
month later, Tool Factory sent three staff members to the school during
a Staff Development Day to demonstrate and give preliminary training
on the software that had generated the most interest among the teachers.
After the Staff Development Day, Gijanto and Nelson asked teachers
to vote for the software they liked best.
Based on the results of the survey, Nelson purchased a spelling
program, several math curriculum titles, and Tool
Factory Workshop, which includes a kid-friendly Word
Teachers, students, and parents have all responded with overwhelming
enthusiasm to the school’s technology program.
Nelson believes that Tool Factory’s training helped to get
the teachers excited about the new facilities, and empowering the
teachers to make the decisions about the software purchased has ensured
that the new programs will actually be used.
Each computer’s desktop is now sprinkled with the colorful
software icons and a folder for each class’s projects.
Nelson reports, “It’s nice to have the software, to let teachers
come in and use it. If we just had machines and no instructional
software, the new systems would have collected a lot of dust.” Gijanto is pleased with the Tool Factory software,
and says that it has “really allowed the kids to take off.” For example, she adds, Tool Factory Painter
“is so usable with the little tiny kids who can’t even read yet.”
The fact that kids have taken off with the
software is readily apparent as soon as one enters the Math lab where
a whole class of kindergarteners is working with Tool Factory Painter. Last week, the students focused on a particular
function in the program that allowed them to learn about symmetry.
A collection of colorful printouts on a bulletin board in the
back of the lab testifies to the success of that day and other sessions
with Tool Factory Painter. “See the one with the sun?” one student asks,
pointing to a richly colored work of art. “That one’s mine!” Today
the children are experimenting with swirling, motion blur, and other
effects. Some students are beginning to add stamps to
their creations from the extensive on-screen banks. Madison, who has typed, “I love my family. From Madison” in the
corner of her screen using the text tool, now wants to add an American
flag to her project. She raises
her hand and asks her teacher, Julie Saunders, for help finding the
flag. Ms. Saunders kneels down next to Madison, and
asks, “What letter does American begin with?” Madison, who
has learned that the items in the bank are arranged alphabetically,
scrolls to the top of the bank and clicks twice to insert a photograph
of an American flag on her page.
She then experiments with the spray paint tool to add red,
white, and blue lines before sending her completed project to the
color laser printer in the back of the room.
The great thing
about introducing young children to technology, Nelson and Gijanto
agree, is that they aren’t afraid to try new things, experiment, and
make mistakes. The students
at the Mary J. Tanner School have been enthusiastic about the new
technology from the get-go. Gijanto
thought it would be nice to have a Grand Opening for the new labs,
and let the students become the tour guides for the parents, who were
“really thrilled with the new facilities.”
The families in Granville represent a range of socio-economic
backgrounds, and some children came to school with more exposure to
computer technology than others. All the children, however, have quickly learned
how to use the computers and the software.
Julie Saunders, the Elementary Math Specialist for grades K-6 in
Granville, has been impressed by how easily the kids got into the
math curriculum titles like Number
Train, and 123
CD. In some cases, the children have discovered
more options in the programs than she knew existed! Saunders is happy to let the kids teach her things about the software
while she uses the software to help her teach math topics. One day she had the whole class work on an
activity in Number Train where students learn about place value. Next year, Saunders plans to take advantage
of the monitoring facilities in the software that allow her to track
student progress. For now,
she’s allowing the kids to explore the activities and practice key
skills while she walks around the lab and works with individual students.
The cooperative environment in the computer labs at this K-2 school
is energizing for teachers and students. When asked about learning how to use Tool Factory Painter,
a kindergartner named Heidi says, “It was easy to learn. Some of my friends learned how to use it, and
then they taught me.” Many
of the younger teachers and some of the more seasoned professionals
have embraced the new technology whole-heartedly.
According to Nelson, many teachers “are doing a lot of different
things with Tool Factory products, and they are very impressed with
the software.” For those teachers who have been more reluctant to
use the programs, the fact that the kids are learning the software
so quickly and are so eager to advance their skills is driving the
teachers to learn. Some now use part of their free time sitting down
in the classroom playing around with the various features of the program.
Nelson had an opportunity to watch a class at work in one of
the labs, and he says, “What these little second graders were doing
was phenomenal. It forces
us to have the responsibility of continuing with technology.
We need to get at least one lab in the grades 3-6 school in
The kids are creating the demand, and they will be looking for similar
facilities and software to use when they advance to the next grade
levels. Nelson is excited
about a major project underway now at the high school.
The walls have been knocked out of four adjacent rooms to create
what Nelson is calling the “Computer Technology Suite”. There will be a 25-computer technology classroom, a 36-computer
general lab, and 2 business classrooms, where IBM typewriters and
older PC’s will be replaced by new Dell systems.
The Granville Central School District is committed to helping
teachers meet the ISTE Technology Standards in their classrooms and
labs, and with the new facilities and software, they are confident
that major progress is being made.
Both Nelson and Gijanto want to make sure that teachers continue
to take advantage of new technology as they teach.
Gijanto’s goal for next year is to have more Staff Development
Days with technology training that will show teachers how to use software
to enrich their curriculum and help students develop higher-level
thinking skills. Nelson feels
that “it is important to let the curriculum drive the technology”
as the teachers begin to build lesson plans and multimedia projects
with their students.
building projects in the Granville schools are about much more than
building rooms with new computers; they are about building confidence,
knowledge and essential thinking skills in kids as soon as they are
old enough to use a mouse. Watching
kindergarteners line up at the printer to gather their projects (one
copy to bring home, and one copy for the bulletin board), it is clear
that the Mary J. Tanner School has come a long way since the days
of Commodore 64’s!
press inquiries, contact Kendra Ericson, Media Contact, Tool Factory,
Inc., at (802) 375-6549 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information
about this story, contact Dan Nelson, Technology Director, Granville
Central School District, 58 Quaker Street, Granville, NY 12832 at (518)
642-1051 x 2141 or email email@example.com