Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 12 August 2011 00:00
Microsoft recently recognized sixth-grade Mineola School District teacher Vincent Interrante for his work in creating an educational software program. The Mineola Board of Education invited the sixth grade teacher to present his work at its recent meeting at the Willis Avenue School.
Interrante’s software was compared to a student’s notebook, only in electronic form on the computer, created using a program “One Note” which allows for collaboration among students at their desks, allowing them to work independently yet contribute to a larger project.
The collaborative aspect of the program is similar to Google Docs, which allows multiple users to access, modify and share documents. The program uses tabbed browsing to navigate between the “pages” or sections of the electronic project.
“If you were sitting down at your computer and you found an answer to an inquiry question, when you type in your answer or copy and paste your answer that you found off of another Internet source, it automatically gets shared with your peers,” Interrante said, calling it “collaborative investigation that is controlled by the teachers.”
Students use Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, while working in teams of four to find and research answers on the water cycle, using weather maps and creating videos on how to make clouds and acting as meteorologists.
“When they have a sense of ownership, they’re engaged in their own learning, they’re not passive anymore, they’re collaborating and learning together,” Interrante said. “You speak to the kids, they’re excited about learning.”
The Bing search engine produces more research-based search results than other engines, but that students must still look through the various results and validate their answers, according to Interrante.
“The pilot project that we’re working on in the middle school is the sense of a student collaboration,” he said. “Years ago, the constructivist side of education show that we should scaffold learning and have learning build upon itself. With that premise, what we created using a pretty sophisticated program from Microsoft called “One Note,” is an interactive notebook that could change the way students learn and the way we teach.”
Interrante spent a week in Rochester to be trained as a Microsoft educator before going to Philadelphia for a demonstration of his work, then traveled to Seattle for two-week intensive training session on Microsoft products. He will return to Mineola in late August and will begin training all sixth grade teachers, sharing what he’s learned and helping to implement project-based learning, an inquiry-based form of instruction, in the middle school.
While Microsoft assuming all expenses for the trips, “this is all on his time,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler pointed out, who will be going to Philadelphia during one of the training days. The program will be implemented in the fall now that the board approved a new five-year technology plan recently.
The district would be able to extend the service to students at home, overcoming a significant hurdle mentioned as affecting previous initiatives in which some students did not have home Internet. According to the superintendent, the district is also working on a “tracker” that would utilize the school district Internet filter when outside district buildings.