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Technology moving JEHS forward

Since receiving a $4 million technology grant through Information Transport Solutions, Inc. nearly two years ago, John Essex has revamped the way it moves students forward.

“This grant allowed us to be able to implement a variety of technological methods for teaching information to our students,” Christy Finch of John Essex School said.

Among other things, the grant enabled Essex to implement a one-to-one computer initiative that ensures every student from second grade through high school has a laptop or netbook computer for their own use.

Students in grades seven through 12 are able to pay a nominal deposit that allows them to take their netbooks home each day.

“The advantages of each student having their own netbook are the availability of research information,” Finch pointed out. “Students can view lectures and lessons which help them further understand the concepts being taught by the classroom teacher. Students are able to do independent practice on their level. Assignments can be made for students to complete on their own time and at their own pace then be turned into the teacher when completed. And students have the opportunity to use creativity in the way they complete their assignments. For example, many students will do PowerPoint presentations, PhotoStory presentations, use Animoto, or Glogster as a way for presenting the information from their assignment.”

In addition to the laptops, the grant has provided John Essex classrooms with Smart Boards. The innovative technology allows teachers and students to view documents on a white board with the assistance of a LCD projector.

“This board doesn’t just allow viewing,” Finch said. “It allows the teacher or student to touch the board and manipulate the information. A teacher can put information on the board, with the answers hidden, and then the students can reveal the answers by touching the board. They can create charts and graphs as seen in the picture.”

Some Essex teachers utilize a function of the Smart Boards that allows them to “hide” questions. Students then throw a Koosh ball to a spot on the board and must answer the question that is revealed.

The grant has also provided the school with Elmo Cameras, which allow teachers to send written information to the Smart Board. Using a special pen, teachers and students can write on the document or highlight important information on the White Board.

“Each classroom has its own sound system called ‘LightSpeed.’ Students and teacher use a wireless microphone to amplify voices, music or sounds from the computer,” Finch said.

Additionally, Essex teachers and students now have the Turning Point remote answering system at their disposal. Turning Point allows teachers to assess students, discuss answers and check for understanding without using the traditional paper and pencil tests.

“Students on the high school hall have access to classes taught on the internet,” Finch said. “Since we are a small school, we are not able to hire enough teachers to teach the ‘electives’ students need to attain an advanced diploma, or to take College Prep classes. Through the use of technology, students are able to take online classes. They watch lectures from other classrooms, are able to ask questions, and participated in the class through their computer. This is made possible through a program called ACCESS. if a student has had trouble in a particular class, they can earn the class credit through a program called E2020, thereby making up any work they struggled with whether due to absences or the inability to grasp the concepts the first time it was taught. It is similar to an online tutoring program.”

The new technology has allowed John Essex students to move ahead through exploration, innovation and creativity.

“It allows them to be ready to face the technology challenges of the future in education, in the work place and in their personal lives,” Finch said. “We at John Essex are on the move.”