Researchers study use of cutting-edge technology in the classroom
It has been called a silent epidemic. Recent, alarming reports suggest one-third of all public high school students and nearly one-half of minority students fail to complete their high school experience. These numbers have steadily declined over the past 40 years with numerous consequences. Current research at Kent State University is working to reverse that trend.
The technology rich AT&T Classroom, run by the Research Center for Educational Technology (RCET) at Kent State, is quickly growing in stature and significance. Led by Dr. Richard E. Ferdig, RCET explores the uses and influences of technology in education and helps to improve teaching and learning in today’s classrooms.
Ferdig believes K-12 online learning, a method of delivering teaching and learning through electronic means, can be a solution to the growing dropout rate.
“Instruction works best when curricula and teachers are innovative,” said Ferdig. “Online learning provides an opportunity where authentic learning can take place.”
Opened in 1998 in the Moulton Hall Learning Technologies Center through a grant provided by SBC, the Classroom has continued to grow over 14 years with funding from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, the GAR Foundation, AT&T, and the Ohio Board of Regents.
What makes RCET’s research on the cutting edge is the direct data it receives. Over a six week period, classes (grades K-12) are invited to come to the AT&T Classroom, which becomes its new home, and take advantage of the technological benefits RCET provides.
Each class is able to utilize wireless laptops, digital presentation equipment including an interactive whiteboard, Bluetooth enabled writing pads, atmospheric data centers and digital microscopes, to name just a few.
While classes are in session, RCET researchers are able to monitor the students through an observation room. Researchers have access to four observation stations, four cameras, sixteen microphones, two analog VCRs and four DVD recorders. In addition, each observation station is equipped with a wireless laptop, an observation monitor, an AMX touch panel that controls the cameras and DVD recorders and Sony studio recording quality headphones.
This setting also allows RCET to test new equipment and its effectiveness on the learning process.
“For instance we can look at 3D technologies and see if it has an impact on how students learn,” said Ferdig. “Take the solar system, instead of using a poster board to illustrate the planets, we can use 3D technology to show the class how the planets really would appear.”
Ferdig and RCET can then take this information and advise school districts across the country what technologies to invest in.
As important as the AT&T classroom is for students, the impact for teachers is even greater.
“There are three kinds of teachers,” says Ferdig. “One that knows the content, one that knows how to teach and one that knows the content and knows how to teach.”
Before taking their class to the AT&T classroom, teachers meet with the staff at RCET to go over the curriculum. During this consolation, RCET will learn what technologies the school district has at its disposal, and then designs a lesson plan to utilize the given technologies.
“We want teachers and students to take what they’ve learned here, and apply it back to their classroom at home,” said Annette Kratcoski, Educational Researcher at RCET.
Since its opening in 1998, over 2,100 K-12 students and over 90 teachers have participated in the AT&T Classroom (formerly named the Ameritech and SBC classroom). The Classroom has also served as a field site for over 490 College of Education, Health, and Human Services (EHHS) pre-service teachers, including student teachers.