Students in Dyane Smokorowski's eighth-grade language arts class partner with orphanages in Nigeria, major record industry players, and local museums.
"In the past 10 years I've worked with teachers on every continent except Antarctica, with all ages from kindergarten to sophomores in high school," Smokorowski says. "My students collaborate to solve real-world issues like the energy crisis."
Smokorowski, who teaches in Andover, Kan., credits the Intel's popular teacher development program, which recently reached its 10 millionth educator worldwide, with radically changing her classroom."I depended heavily on worksheets, paper-and-pencil kinds of things," she says. In 2001, she took her first Intel class and immediately began implementing technology into the classroom.
She began making sure every lesson had a real-world implication: She used Treasure Island to teach students about music piracy, and the Underground Railroad novel Feeling Freedom to teach about poverty in Nigeria.
This "project-based learning" approach to teaching is a core element of the program, which was founded by the computing giant in 1998. It has grown rapidly over the past five years as it has expanded to 70 countries, according to Shelly Esque, the company's vice president of corporate affairs. More than 400,000 American teachers have taken the company's classes, which focus on effectively implementing technology in the classroom.
Many teachers found the 32-hour training course useful, according to a survey done by the company. Three fourths had used lesson plans developed during the Intel program, and 91 percent of those teachers said students were "motivated and involved" during Intel-inspired lessons. Four fifths of teachers said students understood Intel-inspired lessons better than standard lessons.
The training pushes educators to teach math and science by using real-world examples and making students solve real-world problems. Research has shown that students respond to "project-based learning." More than half of teachers who responded to the Intel survey said they were assigning more project-based tasks to their students.
"Engaging students in project-based learning is a way to grab their attention and increase their enthusiasm," Esque says. "When you speak to kids who excel in science competitions, they talk about a moment they got inspired to go into science."
Teachers come back to their classrooms ready to implement technology into the curricula. Smokorowski says her students use Skype to teleconference with students across the world, Google Docs to collaborate with their classmates, and a variety of photo editing and Web design software.
Smokorowski, who now helps train teachers in her district with the program, says other educators have had a similar experience with Intel. "Everything we do in Kansas—the collaboration we do—is dramatically impacted by the Intel program. We're the best-kept secret when it comes to technology education. We do more things here than you'd dream of doing in other states."
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