A science teacher and a technology director from a school district that also received recognition were among those honored at the LHRIC's 19th Annual Pioneer Awards May 18, which was held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.
The ceremony culminates a year-long series of presentations by well known speakers in the field of educational technology, as part of the RIC's Technology Leadership Institute series.
Science teacher Jasper Fox was the first recipient of the Distinguished Technology Teacher Pioneer Award. He teaches general science and a Regents Earth Science class at Copper Beech Middle School in the Lakeland School District. As a teacher, Mr. Fox knows that some students have difficulty completing their assignments, so he created screen casts of the science experiments he would normally do in class using screen capture software. In the past year, Mr. Fox has posted a myriad of screen casts to the class wiki, which his students can readily access.
Mr. Fox has created a learning environment in education known as the "flip classroom." It's a new way of teaching, he said, one that has transformed the practice for many instructors, allowing them to become coaches and facilitators rather than just instructors delivering a lecture.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Fox thanked administrators and others in the district for their guidance and support. "My students are not only gaining the skills to be successful, but are gaining additional 21st century study skills," he said.
Mr. Fox also credited the online social networking service Twitter for inspiring him and allowing him to communicate with other like-minded instructors. "This whole initiative started out as a way to provide extra help for my students," he said. "But it has now warped into something way more powerful than that."
The City School District of New Rochelle had the honor of accepting two awards during the hour-long ceremony. Director of Technology Dr. Christine Coleman was singled out for bringing mobile learning to the district. For that, she was awarded the Distinguished Director of Technology Pioneer Award.
For the past year and a half, Dr. Coleman has invested much energy in the "Mobile on the Go!" program, a Federal Communications Committee-funded grant, which involved collaboration with Verizon, the RIC and Carrot App. Referring to her can-do attitude and persistence, New Rochelle Superintendent Richard Organisciak praised Dr. Coleman for her efforts. "We as a district are very proud of the ideas and creativity from people like Dr. Coleman," he said.
The initiative has helped raise achievement levels among participating students and has closed the digital divide, said Dr. Coleman. Looking for ways to prepare its students for the 21st century workplace, the New Rochelle City School District has made incredible strides over the past year. Since winning the FCC grant, it has deployed over a thousand mobile-filtered devices to students. As a result, the Pioneer Awards committee felt it was deserving of this year's Distinguished District Pioneer Award.
According to Dr. Coleman, students participating in the mobile learning program are displaying an improvement in reading, writing and literacy, and the formal structure of the classroom has "flipped," creating an environment where they now work in clusters as opposed to working alone, and where engagement and interactivity are the primary goals.
The district's Board of Education president, Chrisanne Petrone, was equally delighted with the honor. "We know that our district is amazing, and we also know that all of our children can learn, but we must continue to ensure that we provide them with the tools to keep them learning," said Ms. Petrone.