Over the last 10 years, the dynamics of the traditional classroom have changed.
In most schools, blackboards and chalk have been replaced by interactive smart walls and pointers, while personal computers are nearly as important as a pencil and paper.
Overhead projectors and manual typewriters are virtually obsolete.
When Don Ritchie, chairman of San Diego State University’s Department of Educational Technology, started teaching, he used a 16 mm projector in his science class and was just getting familiar with a VCR.
That was more than 20 years ago.
Now, Ritchie said, there is more technology training required for new teachers.
“In California, there’s been a ruling since 1990 that teachers would take courses to demonstrate competency in using technology in the classroom,” Ritchie said.
– Lessons Merge With Technology
No matter if the class is math or English, Ritchie said the goal is to “find ways to put technology in classrooms so it’s intertwined with regular teaching.”
Last year, his department was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to train new teachers to be technology-proficient. The three-year program was implemented in partnership with California State University San Marcos; the county Office of Education; ACTV HyperTV Networks, Inc., and a New York-based company that provides software technology.
Ritchie said the grant is being used to develop and implement two interactive Web-based, multimedia instructional series focusing on how to apply technological tools in the classroom.
The first series, being produced this year, concentrates on developing instructional materials to improve high school students’ reading skills. The second series will focus on additional subjects with pilot testing at SDSU and CSU San Marcos.
The technological advancements of the time allow students to find more information and analyze that information more thoroughly, Ritchie said.
“When you require students to articulate their thoughts and demonstrate their knowledge, it’s much more meaningful,” Ritchie said. “They retain the information much longer.”
– High School A Shining Example
An example of what the classroom of the future is likely to resemble is found at High Tech High, San Diego’s newest charter schools.
Located on the grounds of the former Naval Training Center in Point Loma, the school mapped out less than a third of its space to traditional classrooms.
In fact, the specialized labs and workstations look more like work areas at local high-tech firms.
At High Tech High, the curriculum is divided into three segments: math, science and engineering; literacy and humanity; and art and design.
Instead of sitting through 50-minute classes, the students rotate between one morning and one afternoon block. By their junior year, much of their time will be spent away from the school in internships with area companies.
“This trend started with personal computers,” said Larry Rosenstock, principal of High Tech High. “We’re not trying to make school a place where students merely consume technology, but it’s a place where they produce in that technology.
“They can’t play video games here, but they can make one.”
– Business Leaders Demand Tech Skills
The school has 300 ninth and 10th grade students, and is a part of the San Diego Unified School District. It was created after several San Diego business leaders stressed there were more high-tech jobs available here than there were qualified people to fill them.
The school’s backers include Qualcomm Inc., Cubic Corp., General Atomics, Leap Wireless International, Pacific Bell, Scripps Research Institute, and the Space and Navy Warfare Systems Command, also known as Spawar, to name a few.
After discussing the problem with local educators, the group realized the solution started in secondary schools.
“Kids are real malleable now, so they can be easily exposed and influenced,” said John Serbin, vice president of corporate development for locally based Idun Pharmaceuticals and chair of the biotech industry trade organization Biocom’s education committee. “We want to let students know that (technology) is not something considered Buck Rogers and far-fetched. It’s something that surrounds us every day and we’re all used to it.”
Serbin said their goal is to influence students to take the tougher classes in math and science so they can be prepared for future job opportunities.
“These kids are going to work in industries that haven’t been invented yet,” Serbin said. “They have to be prepared to work in a changing world.
“San Diego is really a hotbed for both biotech and high-tech, and it would be kind of nice to train the kids who are here.”
– Model Protected By A Trademark
High Tech High’s model has caught the attention of school systems from around the world , so much so, the school has even put a trademark on its name.
There’s been interest from school systems in San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, New York City, Seattle and Atlanta.
Gov. Gray Davis recently earmarked $20 million in the state budget to create 10 similar schools throughout the state.
Here in San Diego, the technology bug has bitten even smaller schools.
Last year, Santa Fe Christian School in Solana Beach had one computer lab that had to be shared by students from grades eight to 12. This year, there are two computer labs; one for grades kindergarten to eight, and one for grades nine through 12.
That should all change this spring.
The private school, with a student body of 750 students, is putting the final touches on a new $2.7 million, 15,200-square-foot technology center and library.
The project, part of the school’s $10 million development campaign, will house five computer labs, a distance learning/multimedia room, and a complete broadcast quality video station.
The school will also add new technology classes to its curriculum, including graphic design and art production.
“One of our goals for the new building is to have technology classes and a program that will be as good or better than any school in San Diego County,” said Chuck Leslie, the school’s director of development.
Leslie said the school has the same belief as high-tech leaders that students must be equipped with the right skills to meet future demands.
“Almost every job has some component of technology,” Leslie said. “Kids have to have the technology skills to be successful.
“The trend will be that eventually all kids will be carrying laptop computers around. They will be taking notes and doing reports on computers as opposed to writing them.”