Innovators - Keith George
K-5 | Technology Skills | App & Robot
Keith George is the Educational Technology Specialist at the Alabama Department of Education. The Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative is integrating Dot and Dash from Wonder Workshop into hands on STEM kits to be used by teachers around the state to integrate Digital Literacy and Computer Science in 3rd Grade Classrooms.
The Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative program has been around for sixteen years. For many years, we’ve had math and science. We’re beginning to pilot this for digital literacy and computer science.
We have a longstanding history of providing classroom resource kits to teachers. Teachers sign up for or are recruited to attend an initial summer institute. They come in for a period of time and learn how to implement our grade level kits. We focus on a three prong approach, with initial professional development, providing the resources themselves and the onsite coaching, which is really what makes the difference for the teachers.
For math and science, our kits include everything from beakers to potting soil and live animals. We have eleven regional centers around the state that are based at universities. Each of those universities have what I like to call our “mini Amazon warehouses.” This is where our kits are put together at and we send them out from there to schools with the teachers that have been trained to implement them. These centers also have math or science specialists that go out and visit with the teachers and provide onsite coaching. At the end of the semester, the kits are shipped back to our warehouses and are refurbished to check the condition of all the items and replace disposable items. We then send it out to a different school.
We have had technology in the name since the program was first conceived. At first that technology was thought to be technology used in math and science exclusively. For example, graphing calculators and probeware in science kits, but it wasn’t directly tied to technology integration. Alabama recently implemented a new course of study with digital literacy and computer science. We utilized some existing grant funds to come up with our digital literacy and computer science pilot. Initially, we are doing three grade levels, which are second, third and fifth. The third graders are using Wonder Workshop. We’re looking at funding sources now to expand to other grade levels.
While we were going through the process of choosing a hands-on solution for our computer science kits, we got individual sets of Wonder Workshop. I went through the Digital Literacy & Computer Science standards and looked at each grade level. From professional experience and working with others in the field, I decided Wonder Workshop was a great fit for third grade.
We usually do summer training sessions, but to get this off the ground as a pilot, we held that the first week of April. We brought in about 75 teachers from around the state, plus our staff specialists. They went through three days of training on materials and took those back to their schools and are starting to implement their curriculum in their classroom now.