SALEM - Salem school district teachers recently earned $20,826 in state grants to incorporate their ideas for improving learning and inclusion of special education and at-risk students in their classrooms.
Cathy Sanor, Director of Curriculum and Federal Programs at the district, said the idea is to help those students achieve at a higher level or levels closer to what their counterparts are experiencing.
"We're trying to close that gap," she said.
The Ohio Department of Education offered grants of up to $1,000 each for Inclusive Best Practices Action Research awards. Those eligible were "educators with an interest in the integration of layers into instruction as a means of enhancing the participation, learning, and engagement of children with disabilities and other at-risk learners."
Funds could be used to purchase products to present information and content in different ways, differentiate the ways students could express what they know or stimulate interest for learning. They could also be used for software to collect and analyze data or products to summarize information.
All 21 Salem teachers who applied were told this week that they received
grants, a fact which didn't surprise Sanor, she said, due to the quality of teachers the district has. Individual classroom grants are few and far between, so they were excited to have the opportunity to secure some technology they could use to enhance the learning process for those kids who need a more hands-on, visual or auditory approach.
"I was totally amazed at the ideas the teachers had and how hard they worked on these," Sanor said.
Five teachers at Buckeye Elementary, Linda Eynon, Kari Newburn, Kelsie Markijohn, Melinda Bratton and Chelsea Green all received $1,000 each to purchase Spark 360 clickers. Each student will have a clicker to be able to indicate what they know, sort of like an audience voting by clicker for a certain video. Teachers will be able to know immediately if the students are understanding the material and be able to take action quickly if they're not.
Sanor said the technology has been around for awhile, but this will be the first time they've attempted to use it at the kindergarten, first and second grade levels. Students will be more engaged and teachers will know who answered and who didn't.
Buckeye teachers Tracy Gottschling and Regina Ziegler received $1,000 and $998 to purchase iPads and Boardmaker Plus software, which will work with the interactive white boards in the classrooms, which have taken the place of chalkboards. The iPads, which are computer notebooks, will stay in the classrooms and the software will include activities to engage the students.
Buckeye teacher Julie Folger received $989 for iPads and apps to help students who may have trouble with written responses compose those responses, express opinions and create narratives. Buckeye teacher Amy Orville received $996 for subscriptions and headphones for online, computer-based reading material for differentiated instruction.
At Reilly, which houses grades three and four, Al Tucciarone received $984 for air printers with iPads, with speech recognition software, which gives an alternative way to assess kids who have difficulty writing by allowing them to speak their response. Sanor explained the printers will work with the iPads to allow a child to print out something they've created.
Cheryl Green, a special education teacher at Reilly, received $1,000 for two iPads and apps for intervention in reading and math. Melanie Miller received $1,000 to purchase four Kindles, which are reading devices, so she can download ebooks at the third and fourth grade levels, giving them access to much more reading material at different levels. Judy Colbert received $999 to order a wide array of math manipulatives, hands-on devices students can use to help them learn math.
At Southeast, which houses grades five and six, Cassie Manski and Ruth Floor received $987 and $916 for iRespond Lite student response systems, which are remote clickers and a base station which works with the iPad, similar to the Spark 360 clickers. Their idea also incorporates formative assessment to assess where kids are in the process of learning.
Pam Jay received $998 for an iPad project with Dragon Dictation, a voice recognition software to help students increase fluency and comprehension while reading. Tammy Comm received $959 for flexible digital microscopes, which are handheld microscopes the students can use to study cell structure. They'll be able to take them outside to look at plants and the images will be able to be projected or printed out.
At the junior high level for the seventh and eighth grade, Megan Ellis and Kathleen Piero each received $1,000 for iPod Touch projects with social studies for audio presentation of text. Sanor said some students learn better or can understand subject matter better by hearing it. Jennifer Pitts received $1,000 for an iPod Touch with Dragon Dictation and air printers. Amy Emerick received $999 for iPads with Dragon Dictation and air printers.
Sanor said the district also applied for $12,500 to add 25 iPads for special education classrooms and should hear soon whether they'll receive the grant. She said technology is the key to engaging kids. About 230 students fall into the category of special education or at-risk in the school district.
Besides helping the students, increasing their learning could also affect the district's report card. The district has been excellent the last two years, but she said the district struggles sometimes with the adequate yearly progress rating due to special education levels. They're hoping they can increase the learning levels to help the students.
"Getting students more engaged in inclusive settings with interactive technologies makes a difference," Sanor said.