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A model classroom; Improving deaf education.

A Model Classroom

If you think it's hard to engage students as you teach the War of 1812, then you obviously haven't gotten a look inside social studies classes at Houston County High School in Georgia. There teachers use illuminated maps, streaming video and handheld voting devices to immerse students in the details of the war's battles.

If this sounds like a peak into the classroom of the future, well, that's exactly what Intel thinks. Through the company's Model School Program, the classes at Houston High are equipped with Promethean's ACTIVBoard Collaborative System, including whiteboards, built-in software, and handheld voting devices that provide teachers with instant feedback.

HCHS is one of several models for 21st century classrooms thanks to Intel's program, which began four years ago to showcase and share some of the innovative ways that educators are using technology to enhance education. The program connects schools with hardware and software vendors and application service providers via grants and discounts.

"It is very important to have the Model School Program to provide guidance for schools wishing to move down the technology path and to match schools with companies that can provide the answers or solutions that the schools need," says Terry Smithson, Intel America's education marketing manager.

Intel provides case studies on its Web site as well as an application to join the program. The company named HCHS a Model School in May 2003. Since then more than 70 schools have visited the high school to see how technology is changing the way teachers teach.

"Teachers are no longer sources of information, they are great facilitators of information," says HCHS principal Mike Hall, adding that technology forces teachers to evaluate how much learning is taking place and how they can improve their instruction.

"If you're not evaluating these things, you're cheating your students," Hall says.

Improving Deaf Education

Sometimes, the things we take for granted are hurdles for handicapped children to overcome. For instance, children with hearing problems can have a tough time learning how to take turns in conversations or how to make eye contact.

The way Vivian Smith, an elementary school teacher at the Mississippi School for the Deaf, overcomes this problem is videoconferencing. Smith uses cameras to connect with high school students on the other end of campus. The high school class shows her students the correct way to keep and maintain eye contact or appropriately take turns during conversation. Then her students play the role of famous deaf people while the high schoolers guess who they are.

"My students' behavior and ability to pay attention is enhanced," says Smith.

"If we continue to do the same old thing we continue to get the same results." --Vivian Smith, elementary school teacher, Mississippi School for the Deaf

This is just one way administrators and instructors who teach hearing handicapped students are leveraging the latest visual and communications technology to address school safety, share best practices and bring the curriculum to life.

"Since our daily lives are more involved with technology, it only makes sense that it be brought into the classroom," adds Nancy Benham, director of the Association of College Educators-Deaf/Hard of Hearing.

Benham's group has created a virtual professional development school for sharing, through videoconferences, best practices for teaching the deaf and hard of hearing. Using Polycom's video communication system, Harold Johnson, director of Deaf Education Teacher Preparation at Kent State University, and co-director of the project, has already collaborated with Smith. KSU students can observe the elementary teacher doing the things they read about in their textbook as well as learn instructional strategies incorporating new technologies.

"If we continue to do the same old thing, we continue to get the same results," says Smith. "We must continue to update and improve our skills as teachers so we can pass necessary skills to our students so they become productive citizens."

Administrators at the Delaware School for the Deaf are using the Polycom system to make communication almost as instantaneous as a PA announcement. They installed a system in each classroom. In an emergency, the principal flashes all of the lights in the school. A certain number of flashes alert students and teachers to go to their videoconferencing systems for sign language announcements.