Stockton showcases education technology
The Press of Atlantic City
May 13, 2002

By DIANE D’AMICO Education Writer,

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Teachers love technology - some of them just don't know it yet.

"At the beginning of the year, they'll say 'Oh, I'm not a techie,'" said Francie Josephsen, the technology coordinator at the Texas Avenue School in Atlantic City. "But if you can just get a couple of teachers using it, they get hooked, then they become your leaders to get other teachers interested."

More than 300 "hooked" educators came to The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey last week for the annual "From My Classroom to Yours" technology workshop. They shared what has worked for them and what has not been so great.

"These are people who are in the classroom on a regular basis," said Anu Vedantham, director of the Atlantic County Educational Technology Training Center at Stockton and a co-sponsor of the workshop. "They know what works, and how technology can add to what teachers do."

The 2001 New Jersey Public School Technology Survey found about 26 percent of teachers still were at the beginner level in using technology, down from 36 percent in 1999. About 22 percent are at the advanced level. Those are the educators the state wants to tap to share what they know with their peers.

Workshops at this year's conference were less about showing teachers how to use equipment and more about showing how the equipment improves learning.

"It's like using a dictionary," said Marilyn Cohen, supervisor of technology in Atlantic City schools. "It's just part of the learning process, and it makes the students a more active part of that learning."

Atlantic City has a blind student who uses technology to communicate in Braille.

Egg Harbor Township has a homebound student who has kept up with classes via a distance-learning setup.

"We're looking at technology in a more holistic way," said Michael Sweeder, distance-learning coordinator in Egg Harbor Township schools. "We're asking how does it fit into daily instruction."

Distance learning has moved away from virtual field trips - which have gotten expensive and difficult to schedule - and toward sharing lessons with students in other towns, states and even other countries.

"Classroom-to-classroom really is the trend because virtually every school in Atlantic and Cape May counties has distance learning now," Sweeder said.

Fifth- and sixth-graders in Little Egg Harbor Township spent a summer creating virtual tours of sites like the Tuckerton Seaport.

Middle school students at the Davies School in Mays Landing share the care and feeding of their science class pets with elementary school students.

Jordan Road School students put pen pals online, with international e-mail exchanges.

Then there's the Star Lab. Mary Capriotti has one of the huge silver, portable planetariums in her classroom at Buena Regional High School. The Atlantic County Audio-Visual Association also has one available for loan to Atlantic County schools.

"You never have to worry about the weather," said Capriotti, who teaches astronomy and physics. "It really shows the night sky, and you can quickly see all the changes during the seasons. You don't have to wait three months."

She uses hers for science classes, but also has shown English classes how mythology relates to the stars.

"Students don't always get the opportunity to go to a planetarium," she said. "We can bring it to them."

The technology program does not stop with students. Several districts have expanded offerings to parents and the community.

"I have a parents class, and the students love to see their parents coming in to learn things," said Marva Newsome, technology coordinator at the Richmond Avenue School in Atlantic City.

Josephsen said as prices have dropped, more students have computers at home, making it easier to incorporate them into classroom use.

"Sometimes students teach me things," she said. "But I tell the teachers, that's OK. There's no way any of us can know it all because there's always something new."