A recent visitor to my classrooms and observer of students in action wrote this description. I hope this helps clarify what goes on and responds adequately to the numerous recent requests for more info. Please email me for more, if you wish.
Article for publication in Bellevue School District Tech Magazine June 1995
High School Math: It's not just story problems anymore by Craig Burlingame, District AV and Media Specialist
Talk about student impowerment. Imagine a learning environment where the students are the experts. Scarry, uh? Well, after seeing some of Steve Means' SHS math students in action, I'm convinced it's an exciting future out there that lies ahead and could easily give new meaning to the bumper sticker that says, "Hire a teenager now, while they know everything". Officially, it's listed as a math class but instantly you realize these students won't be working on just story problems today. For on any given day, Steve Means' students will go far beyond the 4 walls of their Sammamish High classroom to learn math concepts and so much more. With help from the internet and the World Wide Web, how they learn today serves as a model for kids of the not too distant future. For example, Steve's students have created their own homepage site for Sammamish on the world wide web. Its value is enhanced by the clever webbing together of a huge variety of internet resources that are of special interest to Sammamish High students. This is something that many companies and businesses have only dreamed about achieving. Little do Steve's students realize they could probably be hired tommorrow by web page design companies who are desperate to find people trained with the skill level demonstrated by the average math student at Sammamish High! Technology allows for a level of interdisciplinary integration that could hardly have been imagined. A good example is the Digital Chisel project students did to show the connection between art and math by using drawings by Escher. You can readily see how having these creative tools available can motivate and inspire students to go beyond the bare minimum in presentation standards. Suddenly students get excited about the possiblity of combining graphics, text, sound and music to make their presentations so much more powerfull and really come alive. Similar approaches are happening in other classrooms as well including Bonnie Brodd's French class and Carol Kocher's History class. Here students incorporate multimedia componets into Digital Chisel design projects. With the introduction of the Internet Club at SHS, students can access internet resources for any of their classes from the library. There's also a unique division of labor in Steve's classroom as well. I happen to have the same scanner in the Media Lab as Steve has in his classroom and I was experiencing trouble with mine. The documentation and tech support from the manufactuer was worthless. So, as a last resort I, the MultiMedia Answerman gave Steve a call to see if he could help me out. His response was I'd have to check with one of his student experts on the scanner. Sure enough, Mike Noble knew the problem I was talking about and offered a solution based on something he picked up on from "the net". One of the best insights on how students use technology in the high school classroom was to see Steve's students in action. Steve's students have given a couple presentations to adult audiences including one to the School Board and the EPC. The poise and maturity displayed in those presentations is most remarkable, especially considering all were juniors and would form the nucleus of a returning core for next year. Without missing a beat any one of his students can professionaly demonstrate how to use the Web search to find resources and information about virtually any topic. Another thing Steve is trying in his classroom is portfolios where the emphasis is on communicating mathematically. Each student is required to keep an active working portfolio as a kind of toolkit. Resources gathered here can be used in tests and quizes. Each student performs self assessment. Students are responsible for managing their individual time using log sheets and their group time on a common calendar. In addition each student is responsible for a longterm investigation as a project, using every appropriate medium to communicate the results and nature of their study. Another important component is that students must teach, and not merely present these concepts to their fellow students. No wonder they feel comfortable presenting in front of large adult groups, they thoroughly know their material and are confident in this knowledge. This places students and teachers in similar roles, creating a web of interactions that supports many styles and levels of learning.
We made the cover of a local business magazine, as well. WhiteRain Films spent three hours filming us for an upcoming educational film for k12 on using the Internet ...
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