Terry Highfield

5:53 PM, Feb 12, 2010   |    comments
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So if technology is the biggest distraction, why not integrate it into a lesson plan?

"Technology is changing so quickly, and it almost seems wrong not to have and not to be trying to get the things that will keep [students] up to date in the classroom," said Terry Highfield, a fourth grade teacher at Heiman Elementary School in Evans and the February 2010 winner of the 9Teachers Who Care award. "Otherwise, they're going home and learning on more advanced things at home than they are at school."

Highfield teaches a wide variety of subjects to his fourth graders, but his forte is writing. When he first began teaching 12 years ago, Highfield quickly noticed an aural trend during writing time: moans, sighs and yawns.

"Every year, I have a student or two who comes in and says, 'You know, I hate writing.' That student becomes the benchmark for where I set my goal for the year. If I can reach the hardest to reach kid in my classroom, I'll reach the other ones anyway!" he said.

With children of his own at home, Highfield knew very well how distracting technology could be; however, he also knew how technology could be used to help the learning process. With that in mind, Highfield wrote a technology grant for his classroom to experiment with how iPods could assist rather than distract a student during school.

After one failed attempt, he was awarded a $5,000 grant over the summer to purchase a collection of iPods for his students. They would not be taking the iPods home; rather, they would be using them as recording tools in the classroom during the session Highfield believes is the most important part of the day: storytelling time.

"As education has started to change and move more toward standardization, writing has always been the area where individual students' personalities could still come through the most," Highfield said.

During writing time, students take part in conferences in which they read their stories to a classroom volunteer while the iPod is recording their voice. Then, when students have finished reading their story, a volunteer shares his or her complements and suggestions into the iPod's speakers. Students can then revisit those lectures without worrying about losing track of the suggestions provided to them throughout the year.

Highfield also loads video lesson plans into the iPods, allowing students at different reading and writing levels to split up into groups while continuing to learn from their teacher.

"There can potentially be six different 'me's' teaching at once in the classroom!" Highfield said.

In addition to the iPods grant, Highfield was recently awarded with another grant, providing his classroom with a giant interactive computer monitor, called a Promethean ACTIVboard. The equipment allows him to write on a big screen and interact in a computer setting rather than with a basic overhead or chalkboard. It will soon be standardized throughout the entire Greeley/Evans District 6 school system because of the superiority K-12 interaction the board has over other boards, such as the SMART board.

"If I can have kids having a good time, they'll be with me the whole time. I won't lose the kids, and they'll be more into learning," Highfield said.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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