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School techs gets a boostStudents are using laptop computers to cover many disciplines.
"This is the story that changed my life forever.Blakely Elementary School fourth grader Lacy Kuhn types the first line of her tale about aliens into the Earthwalk EBuddies laptop on her desk, one of seven that will be featured May 17 as part of Bainbridge schools' technology fair. I'm switching my story from MicrosoftWord into hyperlink, Kuhn says matter-of-factly. You can access this link about phases of the moon from the text.Kuhn clicks on the link she has just created in her story about aliens, and a computer-animation of the moon fills the screen, waxing and waning in a cycle that compresses a month into five seconds.Kuhn says that one can access more facts about the planets by clicking on hyperlinks in her fiction. One must look closely to find the other six computers scattered throughout teacher Maureen Wilson's classroom. The machines are slender and wireless. They seem a natural part of the classroom landscape, blending into the environs in a visual analogy to the conceptual melding of curriculum with technology Wilson has accomplished.It's not about glitz, Wilson said. It can actually unhook a lot of great things in kids.Wilson said that the computers are especially helpful for her students with dysgraphia - students who are bright but have trouble organizing and writing down thoughts. Through using flowchart software that the students call mind maps - and typing rather than using cursive - students' writing improves markedly. Wilson worked for five months to line up funding for the laptops, which arrived last fall. The initial grant came from the Gates Foundation's Teacher Leadership Project, but BEST, Blakely's PTO, the school district and Blakely parent Anton Krucky - who Wilson calls a hero - also contributed.Wilson credits Blakely principal Ric Jones and school board members with moral support.Wilson received 10 days of training, and so did the other Blakely fourth grade teachers. At first, I was a little intimidated, Wilson said. I was afraid I would break something and have to call in technical help. But, there hasn't been one single problem.Wilson said that despite initial school district qualms, students have neither spilled on nor dropped laptops. It's fun because they're portable. You don't trip over the wires, student Zak Gosney said. Both the students and Wilson have grown in confidence since the laptops first came.Students were initially focussed on simply learning how to use the machine and software; now they select projects independently. Simultaneously, in this one classroom, there are students learning about haiku on the laptop and writing poems; kids viewing a CD-ROM production about Greek mythology made by another class; and students who, having read a hardcover book, The North Star by Peter Reynolds, are accessing the author's web site to construct customized constellations based on identifying personal convictions.There are many impressive applications of technology in this district, WIlson said. My class is just one example. People should visit the technology fair for an overview of all the fantastic things being done here.The Bainbridge Island School District's Annual Technology Fair is 6:30-8:30 p.m. May 16 at Bainbridge High School. For information, call 780-1398 or 780-1067. "