Having access to information can drive success in today’s society, and bringing technology into the classroom gives teachers a world of powerful tools. Computing products alone, however, won’t raise test scores or inspire students. What really spurs progress is an understanding of how to best use technology to improve learning.
The HP Technology for Teaching Grant awards a package of HP products, including HP Tablet PCs, cameras and other equipment, to K–12 and higher-education institutions. But what makes the grant stand out from other programs is its emphasis on community building, mentorship and professional development among educators.
At both the K–12 and higher education level, HP engages with grant recipients to ensure their success and provide opportunities for them to share ideas with one another. The strategy is working, as teachers around the world report that the program is helping them think outside the box.
Jodie Newbery is the kind of teacher who loves a challenge. As if fostering a passion for learning wasn’t challenging enough in her fourth-grade class at Timothy Dwight Elementary School in the Bronx, New York. Now she and her colleagues are exploring new ways to teach as part of the HP Technology for Teaching Grant.
“The grant offers motivated teachers a chance to take on more responsibilities, and also to learn a lot more,” Newbery said.
Beyond the technology products, HP provides K-12 teachers with funding to complete online courses and obtain professional development resources, and for a mentor from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). These highly experienced mentors, who are all educators themselves, partner with the teams to customize professional development programs for each teacher. Over the academic year, teachers select courses, from groups such as Atomic Learning and PBS, that address their specific needs and emphasize using technology as a teaching tool.
For example, Newbery has already taken an online literacy course that gave her new ideas for teaching literacy in the classroom. She now tries to incorporate online phonics games and videos to engage her students, and she encourages them to look up words on dictionary.com.
To apply for the grant, K–12 teachers must organize into a team of five members and submit an idea for how they’ll use technology to improve student learning. Newbery says the best part about the HP Technology for Teaching Grant is that she and her team are able to take time to discuss resources, talk about students and coordinate their lesson plans.
“It’s been really wonderful to be treated like a professional and gather together as professionals,” Newbery said. “We all know the curriculum a lot better. We all know the students a lot better.”
The program also brings together teachers from schools around the United States and Canada. Bev Wilkinson teaches math and science classes at Brookfield High School in Ottawa, Ontario. As part of the HP Technology for Teaching Leadership Grant, Wilkinson attended a weekend-long conference run by ISTE where teachers discussed projects and set goals for the year.
“One thing we really liked was just having the time to talk to each other,” Wilkinson said.
After the conference, Wilkinson’s team designed a plan to better integrate technology throughout their school by initiating a professional development day with training sessions. “We’ve certainly upgraded a lot of the skills our teachers have,” she said.
K–12 participants are linked to each other through an online community during the grant period. Mentors and teams can use the tool to coordinate their work and participate in discussions organized by grade level, subject areas and hot topics.
The online community also offers ideas on how teachers can share their practices. Wilkinson brought one idea into her own school—when a teacher wants to invite others in to watch a lesson in action, the teacher will place a blue dot on his or her classroom door.
In the end, the collaboration among teachers helps build a community that outlives the duration of the grant. In fact, ISTE asks some teachers who go through the Technology for Teaching program to become ISTE mentors themselves.
In the world of higher education, the HP Technology for Teaching program encourages faculty to consider fresh approaches to their courses. Instead of the typical lecture hall scene where the instructor faces the whiteboard and students take notes furiously, teachers are learning how to pause and ask for feedback. Students can use their HP Tablet PCs or other wireless technology to submit questions, comments or even drawings to the instructor, who can view the results immediately.
Jim Vanides, program manager for worldwide higher-education philanthropy at HP, said this new strategy is changing the way instructors are working.
“Now you can catch misconceptions and work through them in real time as you teach,” Vanides said.
While the technology itself is valuable, what’s even more valuable is the collection of workshops, speaker events and online communities that help grant recipients think of themselves as a community.
Vanides himself maintains a blog, available at http://www.hp.com/go/hied-blog, that discusses best practices and practical tips for using technology in higher-education classrooms. There’s also an online speaker series with topics including “Group scribbles: A tool for highly interactive Tablet PC classrooms” and “Survey software: Probing student understanding and encouraging active learning.” The online sessions are held in an HP Virtual Classroom, allowing participants to ask questions and engage with other faculty members in a peer-to-peer environment.
Participants in the online discussions have provided overwhelmingly positive feedback and love the fact that they can watch a live demonstration without leaving the office. A typical remark came from one participant who reported that the session gave him more ideas for using the HP Tablet PC in his classroom.
Grant recipients also send a representative to the HP Technology for Teaching Worldwide Higher Education Conference, two intense days of sharing and learning. Educators attend workshops, listen to speakers and exchange ideas with fellow educators who they otherwise never would have met.
At the 2007 conference, HP launched a private, online wiki community where people can connect with each other to share information. The wiki contributes to HP’s goal of maintaining a community where grant recipients remain connected, even after the program concludes.
The HP Technology for Teaching Grant shows that when teachers have the knowledge and means to collaborate with each other, technology’s impacts on their efforts are exponential. So far, Newbery said the teachers at Timothy Dwight Elementary School have seen a great improvement in their students’ behavior and motivation.
“Collaboration is the key to success,” said Newbery. “To me, that’s the most important thing.”
To learn more about HP’s Technology for Teaching Grant initiative, visit http://www.hp.com/go/hpteach.