Seton Hill College’s TALIP Project Success for Local Public Schools
December 5, 2001
GREENSBURG, PA- The Technology Assisted Learning for Inclusionary Practice (TALIP) project, funded though a $1 million grant received through the U.S. Department of Education, that Seton Hill College created for college faculty, pre-service and in-service teachers, is nearing its completion. Seton Hill and its Consortium Partners including Greensburg-Salem, Jeannette and Yough school districts primarily educate students whose family income levels fall on or below the Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines. The unique focus of the TALIP program was its emphasis on integrating technology into the learning experience for all students by assisting teachers in the development of their technology skills. Through the program, 553 K-12 students and 203 Seton Hill pre-service teachers: a total of 756 students benefited from the TALIP project. In addition, a total of 30 teachers and professors participated in the project. A basic computer competency survey to determine the skill level of project participants in Microsoft Office applications was developed and distributed to the 30 participants. Once skill levels were determined, training sessions were divided into two groups: Introductory and Intermediate. Training included instruction focused on classroom use in Microsoft Word 97, Microsoft Excel 2000, Microsoft PowerPoint 2000, Microsoft Outlook 2000 and the World Wide Web. Intermediate technology training provided instruction in the areas of web-based instruction and videoconferencing. All training was performed in Seton Hill College teaching labs. Thomas Yarabinetz, superintendent for the Greensburg-Salem School District noted the importance of the use of technology in the classrooms in his district. “We are pleased to partner with Seton Hill for the TALIP project. Technology is a very important part of education today that can be used as a tool to facilitate the learning process at all levels. By starting a program in our kindergarten at Amos K. Hutchinson Elementary School, the students learn not to be afraid of technology. It’s like foreign languages, the earlier you introduce technology, the easier it will be for students to use these important tools, which improve their overall educational experience.” Dr. Paul Rach, superintendent for Yough School District also noted how technology has enhanced the classroom setting in Yough schools. “Seton Hill opened an opportunity for Yough students and teachers that they might not otherwise have been able to experience. The best part about this project is that it’s the kind of thing we can share. Now that some of the teachers have gone through the training, they can go and train other teachers on the same technology. Our school district is a living result of the positive influences technology can bring. The project went very, very well.” Sue Adams, a chemistry teacher at Yough High School, entered the project with a different perspective than most other teachers. Adams recently left a field position as a medical technician to pursue a teaching career. Upon completing her education certification at Seton Hill, she began teaching Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry at Yough. Through the AP program, high school students take college-level courses that can transfer as credits to an accepting college or university. “The AP Institute suggests working with students through the summer to properly prepare them,” Adams said, noting this is a difficult task during the vacation months. “Through the TALIP project, we were able to purchase $1,000 in software and design a web site that allowed students to complete their summer assignments. Our site coordinates information from textbooks with the software and my own take on the information.” Thus far, Adams has seen much better performance from her students compared to her class last year. “Students are so proficient with navigating the web, this was a natural way to obtain instruction without the face-to-face interaction. I’m grateful to have been a part of the project.” As the instructional designer for the TALIP project at Seton Hill, Mary Spataro assisted participants, providing support as the teachers completed their final projects. The goal was to integrate these programs into teaching in the classroom. Spataro served as a sounding board for the teachers. During the summer of 2001, Spataro helped teachers wrap up the projects and implement them for the start of the new school year. Now that the projects are implemented Spataro visits the schools and helps with troubleshooting. "I worked with all the participating teachers to see where they were and what they needed help organizing," Spataro said. "Most of the teachers in the program are primarily elementary school teachers, but there are some secondary teachers as well. The enthusiasm expressed by the teachers as they selected software and other materials to use in their classrooms was contagious. Throughout the project, these teachers completely focused on the needs of their students and how they could benefit the most from the technology provided by the TALIP project." Spataro found that the most popular request was to organize a classroom web site where homework is updated and parents can log-on to see what their children are doing in class. Direct links to teacher e-mail addresses are also prevalent in addition to utilizing the Internet in the classroom. "I’m impressed with the technology set-up I’ve seen in the local schools. They are trying to make the computer labs more kindergarten-friendly and accessible to all students," Spataro said, noting the importance of inclusionary practices in the classroom to involve students at all levels. "The majority of TALIP participants started the program with minimal technology skills and progressed to the point where they created classroom web pages and engaging learning activities supported by technology." "The important things to keep in mind are that technology is always changing and you have to keep up with it," Spataro added. "The teachers and I have worked to find different ways to use the technology that will most benefit them and their students." Resources available on the Seton Hill College campus for all teachers in the project: Several labs on campus have been outfitted to further aid community educators and prepare Seton Hill students for inclusionary practices in their own classrooms one day. The innovative classroom environments include adaptable furniture and technology, as well as basic assistive equipment for disabled students. These classrooms have been created and updated through the TALIP grant. Classrooms include the Art Education/ MAC labs, the Educational Methods Lab, the Humanities Education Lab, the Music Education Computer Lab, the Molecular Modeling Computer Lab and the Technologies Enhanced Learning Classroom. The Art Education/ MAC Labs have traditionally been used as hands-on centers for creative/ perceptual learning. They have been enhanced to help educators keep up with the increasingly savvy technology used in art instruction in both elementary and secondary levels and also to address the concerns of instruction of the physically handicapped and mentally disabled. The goal of the learning environment is to produce future teachers and, in turn, their students, who can think critically and creatively. The Education Methods Lab was created so instructors could model effective pedagogy and classroom management procedures for education students. The Lab is designed to approximate, as much as possible, a typical K-12 classroom both in space and in technological equipment. Instructors can then demonstrate effective pedagogical practices and efficient ways of moving students into cooperative groups and learning centers in order to meet various learning styles and special needs. Students can practice inclusionary skills by using assistive technology and learn from doing rather than from reading theory. The Humanities Lab has been renovated to meet the needs of humanities classes that have expanded the variety of new technologies used. Currently classes in history, English, political science, Spanish and French use the classroom for the self-paced lab computers that allow students to use CD-ROM and other computer-compatible formats. The Music Education Computer Lab has provided the music department with an exceptional facility that allows for the incorporation of technology throughout the music curriculum. Various uses of technology both as an aid to classroom instruction and as a basic tool of music making and music notation have increased dramatically in recent years. Through TALIP funding, the Lab utilized the services of Soundtree, a company that specializes in music computer lab installations. The room now uses eight student stations and one instructor station. Using digital pianos, a complete recording and playback system, and a LCD projector connected to the instructor station. The computers all have programs for musical notation, music mixing, ear training and music theory instruction. The Molecular Modeling Computer Lab was established in 1996 with a grant from the Charles Edison Fund and through TALIP funding was expanded to include molecular software programs. All students enrolled in all chemistry courses use the lab, non-major through advanced, to complement lecture topics and laboratory exercises. HyperChem, 6.0 software is used to provide students with a visualization tool to enhance their studies. In addition to Seton Hill students, the lab is also used during the College’s Science Quest I and II residential summer camps for girls in grade 7-12 in the summer. With a growing need for communication graduates to have the knowledge, skills and expertise to operate computers, the Technologies Enhanced Learning Lab was created. Faculty also redesigned a new curriculum in instructional design to meet the demand for professionals who could train and work with PK- 12 teachers in managing technologies in the classrooms and media/ computer labs. In addition, the corporate and instructional communication program and the education program designed and developed the master of education in technologies enhanced learning to provide advanced preparation for scholar practitioners in the field. The classroom is designed to create a realistic environment in which the learners will use the technology that they will operate in their professional careers. The instructor can use the Electronic Interactive White Board and LED projector to project the computer images onto a larger screen, better demonstrating the use of computer software, retrieving students assignments from their desktop to the screen for analysis and critique. The students create various assignments, share resources, interact electronically and develop meaningful portfolio assessment and career use.