CHECS – Unifying K-20 with Technology

ACANS News & Information Center

CHECS – Unifying K-20 with Technology

The 24th Annual CHECS Conference was held October 12-14th in Albuquerque and NMSU sent a contingent of 17 information technology specialists to the conference.

The conference’s theme, Unifying K-20 with Technology, was reiterated in opening remarks by New Mexico Education Secretary Veronica C. García.   She stated that she and Governor Bill Richardson had unveiled their reform efforts in public education and that it would be called Making Schools Work.   “Every child in New Mexico deserves an education,” said Garcia.

In an effort to make schools work for every child, Garcia identified three areas as vital to the success of a child’s learning experience.   “It’s about students, it’s about teachers, and it’s about involving parents in meaningful ways.   We want to make sure that students are in up-to-date facilities with up-to-date materials, and that they have the latest technology,” she said.

Growing pains of the reform effort, as identified by Garcia, were dismal mathematics scores.   “We have to have higher standards in mathematics and science,” she stated.   “We need to provide professional development to our teachers so they can drill these concepts and teach higher level thinking skills in mathematics and science.   I believe technology can play a really important role in that, and that it is critical that our focus be on higher education to prepare our teachers to teach these concepts to our students. ”

Students’ perceived expectations do not match educators’ expectations when it comes to what they can achieve noted Garcia. “Our students think they could work harder and achieve more, and that people have too low expectations of them.   We must raise the bar for students,” she stated.

Beverlee McClure, New Mexico Secretary of Higher Education, expressed similar concerns when she addressed the estimated 163 information technology specialists and educators in attendance.    She said, ” Problem solving, higher order thinking, collaboration, and communication, are the tools we need as we work on 21st century skill.”

Teaching and learning in the 21st century, she said, means “bringing students out into the world, bringing the world into the classroom, and providing authentic opportunity for interaction with others–relationships. ”

Relationships were stressed by McClure. They (relationships) define access to the three Rs as redefined in the 21st century.   The three Rs according to McClure are: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships.   “If students cannot see the relevance of what they are learning, they are not going to care or see why they need to learn X, Y, and Z.   We need that human touch.   We need to remember along with relevance and rigor, it is relationships that are key.”

She noted the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future believes schools’ financial policies should be based on knowledge of available federal funds that would enable schools to raise the bar and close the gap between achievements that would level the learning field in all schools.   “We can’t afford not to invest (in technology) and move our students forward,” said McClure.

McClure relayed her experience of traveling to a remote area of the state (the Gallup/McKinley school district) and seeing first-hand its isolation.   “I understood more of the dynamics of family and saw the need for technology,” she said.   “I know we have the creative ability, and I hope we have the political ability to bring technology to those remote areas.”

She then asked those in attendance, “Can you imagine the accountability that would be created among students and teachers if they had that kind of technology? This will be a reality in our state in a few years. ”

Diana Brown, Technology Coordinator for the Dexter Consolidated School District, was among those sitting in the audience and listening to the words of Garcia and McClure.

Dexter Consolidated School District is a small rural district in Chavez County, and is comprised of one elementary, one middle, and one high school.   Its student population is approximately 1,200.

Because of its size, Dexter schools are not able to offer its students a wide variety of classes.   As such, its superintendent of schools, Patricia Parsons, sees e-learning as a way to bring more resources (via e-learning) into the classroom.

Superintendent Parsons, observes Brown, is an advocate of technology and wants to weave it into the school’s curriculum.   Brown’s attendance at the 24th Annual CHECS Conference was two-fold. She hoped to walk away with information on implementing video conferencing as an e-learning tool into the school district, and learn more about CHECS and how it would benefit Dexter Consolidated Schools’ endeavor in e-learning, technology, and developing partnerships among other educational institutes within the state.

Brown reiterated Superintendent Parsons words and said, “If we don’t do something right now, our kids are going to be left behind.”

Kurt Rogers, another attendee of the 24th Annual CHECS Conference, from San Juan College in Farmington, knows the value of technology.   As an audio technician at San Juan College, Rogers is constantly looking for new ways to integrate web technology into his classroom.

Diana Brown, Technology Coordinator for the Dexter Consolidated School DistrictDiana Brown, Technology Coordinator for the Dexter Consolidated School District, was among the approximately 163 educators and IT specialist who attended the 24th Annual New Mexico CHECS Fall Conference in Albuquerque, October 12-14th.

Rogers teaches three music courses and one multi-media course, and states he is looking at emerging technologies and how he can incorporate them into his classroom.   He visited many of the vendors at the conference, and said he was “trying to see where they are headed with some their stuff.”

Rogers is at the foreground of technology as applied to those courses he teaches.   “We started using DVDs to teach private instruction distance education piano courses,” stated Rogers.   In the process, Rogers and his colleagues created a back-up band, a simulator that allows someone learning to play a solo instrument to play along with a band, without having a band.   The simulation is accessed on the Internet and anyone, he states, “can access it.”

Rogers has also started using 3D modeling to create virtual sets for the theater department.

Rogers and San Juan College may be the shining example of what Garcia and McClure allude to when they say, technology is the key to moving education in New Mexico forward.

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