jueves, mayo 14, 2009

‘Immigrant' brings technology to ‘natives'

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In Mary Morrison's world, there are two kinds of people: digital immigrants and digital natives. She is one of the latter, but as a media specialist at Garden City Middle School, Morrison has embraced the digital age, finding ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.

“The kids are digital natives, we are digital immigrants,” she said. “They are comfortable with technology, it's where they live. We are a little put off by it.”

Where today's students live is where Morrison is focusing her technological efforts. Using free online software, she works in collaboration with teachers to merge technology with their core curriculum. Programs like Web 2.0, Wikispaces and Class Blogmeister, Morrison has watched as students create podcasts of books they have read and answer questions on blogs for teacher Bonnie Wagoner. Students have learned to create Aeritoes and load them into a blog connected to the teacher's blog for Joanna Grech's English class.

“People think media specialists work with books, and I do have a passion about that, but we also work with technology,” she said. “Technology is what we do as media specialists.”

Morrison started out as a beginning teacher in the Dearborn Heights District 7 teaching computer skills. That's where she discovered books by David Warner, creator of Class Blogmeister. His books really “guided” her and showed her how important technology is.

“Students can go from blogging to podcasts to digital storytelling,” she said.

A case in point, a group of students who visited the Holocaust Museum and have been reading books about the Holocaust all year. According to Morrison, they're writing reports that will be read into an audio file. They'll add photos and music to create their own videos using Windows Moviemaker software.

“That's so cool,” she said. “You see kids who are struggling in the classroom environment and if you put them in front of Audacity, they blossom. All this used to be done with pen and paper. A huge number of kids are now doing it on computers.”

Morrison's efforts to expand technology into the classroom have not gone unnoticed. Garden City High School media specialist Nancy Schultz-Speck with the help of Middle School Principal Brian Sumner nominated her for a 2009 Cable's Leaders in Learning Award.

Morrison was one of three teachers from the Detroit metropolitan area and among 47 finalists for the awards. She was nominated in the category of Media Literacy Education for incorporating technology into classroom curriculum.

“Mary Morrison's efforts are a prime example of the sorts of educational leadership and vision the cable industry is proud to honor,” said Frank Gallagher, director of education and media literacy at Cable in the Classroom.

“She demonstrates a great passion and excitement in finding ways to educate and prepare young students for the future, which is a commitment that Comcast shares and applauds,” added Tom Coughlin, senior vice president for Comcast's Michigan Region.

Morrison is “honored” to have been nominated and credits Sumner in her ability to bring technology to the forefront.

“Brian has been very supportive, the reason I'm able to do what I do is because we share the same vision,” she said. Whatever I ask, he always says go for it.”

In addition to her work with at the middle school, she also has done professional development, including a blogging sessions for teachers at Farmington Elementary.

“It's not hard, it's just new,” she said. “You have to go slowly, that's my mantra.“

smason@hometownlife.com | (313) 222-6751