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Union Elementary fourth graders present at state conference

Top Row (L-R): Mrs. Jennifer Williams, Will Guion, Keniston Mullis, Savannah Langston, Kyerra Miller-Griffin, Mrs. Michelle Johnson. Bottom Row (L-R): Madison Bess, Michael Stallings, Jayden McDougall, Riley Pope, Mrs. Gina Chisum.

Over the past few years, Union Elementary has changed drastically in the world of technology. With the support of county officials, who want to produce globally competitive students as they go out into a world of 21st Century technology, as well as an administrative staff at the school who want to see their students succeed, Union Elementary has introduced many new kinds of technology to the teachers and students over the past few years.

If you had entered their classrooms just a few years ago you would have seen the majority of their teachers using overhead projectors as their newest technology tool.
The classrooms today look much different. Upon entering classrooms today, you see each classroom equipped with a Promethean Board, or Dell Short Throw Projector, which allows teachers and students to work interactively as a group, or independently.
Teachers and students also use a wide range of other types of technology, which includes, document cameras, ActivExpression voting devices, slates, wands, and most recently all students in grades 3-5 have their own laptops to use at school.

The new 1:1 environment in the upper grades has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for Union’s students. “Based on the research of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Von Glasersfeld, students learn best by doing and having choice in their learned outcomes. We find that when students can construct products that demonstrate their learning, student engagement and achievement increase,” said Gina Chisum, Instructional Technology Facilitator for Union County Public Schools.

This year, students in fourth and fifth grades were given an opportunity to build their own website. The website serves as an ePortfolio so that students can showcase their best work.

With the collaboration and support of the school’s Instructional Technology Facilitator, Gina Chisum, and the school’s Media Coordinator, Jennifer Williams, students first learned to use Google Apps to complete assignments, build engaging presentations to show their learning, peer edit, and more.

They then chose their best work and uploaded it to their Google Sites ePortfolio. While all students in these grades were given the opportunity to use this at some point throughout the year, there is one particular teacher who decided to go above and beyond.

Michelle Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher, decided she was going to move her class ahead in the world of technology by having them use Google Apps daily for the majority of their schoolwork. Having never done a project like this before, it was uncertain exactly what the end product would look like. But in a continuous collaborative effort between Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Chisum, Mrs. Williams, and the students, these ePortfolios grew bigger than imagined during this first year.

The final products were so impressive, Mrs. Williams submitted an application for a student showcase to be accepted to the North Carolina Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) conference in Raleigh.

NCTIES is a state technology conference, which is attended, by hundreds of education professionals across the state and in the southeast region. Each year at the conference, there is a student showcase where current North Carolina students set up a booth and present new and upcoming technology that is being used in their classrooms.

This year only three schools from Union County were chosen to go and Union Elementary was thrilled to be the only elementary school from the county accepted. On March 6, 2014, eight fourth-grade students, along with Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Williams set off to Raleigh to showcase the wonderful learning going on in this 4th grade classroom.

There, they met Mrs. Chisum, who was already at NCTIES to present at another session. At first, the students were nervous about speaking with adults they had never met before, but after the first few minutes they were at ease and having a great time sharing their ePortfolios.

Fourth grader Savannah Langston said, “I learned how to make presentations and documents. It is easier to type than to write by hand. It is also easier for me to organize the work I do on my website.”

Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Williams, and Mrs. Chisum were very impressed with how well spoken and professional these students were during the showcase.
Mrs. Williams said, “I have watched these students mature and grow since they were in Kindergarten. Seeing them so confident in what they have learned makes me proud to know them and proud to be a part of the Union Elementary community.”

There were many people from all over the state that complimented on how well this project had been put together. They were impressed that these students had only been working on this for one year and that they were only fourth graders.

Mrs. Johnson has also been very impressed with her students work this year. She loves using Google to increase student engagement in her classroom. She says, “I love using technology in my classroom for many reasons. It is engaging for the students, it helps me grade their work easier when it is in one format and organized by subheadings on their websites, and it teachers the students many communication skills and 21st century skills that they just don’t get while doing everything by hand. Using technology has made me enjoy teaching more because there is so much you can do with it while keeping your kids motivated to learn.”

All of the teachers and students involved are excited about how this project turned out this year and they are excited to see where they can take it next year. Their hope is that more and more teachers will come on board with this great learning experience.
Students are not only having fun using these technology tools but they are building foundational 21st century skills that will carry them throughout their school career and into the job field one day.

Written by: Jennifer Williams, Union Elementary media specialist
Posted: Mar 31, 2014 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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