Jennifer Lewis, in her second year as the Indian Knoll’s media specialist, is one of 10 first-place winners in the 2012 Teacher Innovator Award competition, sponsored by PBS and The Henry Ford, and will head off to a Dearborn, Mich., museum complex this summer on an all-expenses-paid, week-long trip for an immersive experience to learn about new educational technologies.
Lewis, who previously worked for 14 years at Hickory Flat as a classroom teacher, won for a submitted video about how she uses different Web 2.0 tools to transform the school’s book club into a collaborative learning opportunity.
Lewis said she found using different types of technology is motivating to her fifth- and sixth-grade club members.
“Rather than running it like a traditional book club, I wanted to bring in some digital media and give the kids a chance to have kind of a wider audience for their thoughts and feelings about the books,” Lewis said.
Each time the 20-member club meets, the children break off into groups divided by which book from the Georgia Children’s Book Award nominee list they read and use different media to demonstrate their knowledge about each book. The activities are all geared toward reading comprehension in effort to prepare students for the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, Cherokee County School District’s annual reading competition each January.
Lewis’ winning submission chronicles a day where the students used various online tools, including Glogster.com to make glogs, or graphic blogs, to create an online poster to share with other students in the school to promote the books; a wiki, another online collaborative tool the students used to post questions to quiz each other about the books; and a group blog, where each blog entry featured a book the students read. The club members were encouraged to comment on the blog about the book and discuss what they liked, didn’t like, or what they would change if they were the author, Lewis said.
“The online tools motivate our students to participate,” Lewis wrote in her submission. “They are thoroughly engaged during meetings and never off task. Our students are empowered by knowing their opinions and work to have an audience outside our meetings.”
She added she was surprised by the honor and is looking forward to learning more about incorporating new media into her club activities.
“I’d like to hopefully learn more about technology and what we could do in the classroom with technology and hopefully bring back some ideas and share with our staff,” she said.
Principal Dr. Ann Gazell said she also views these tools as a great resource to reach technology-savvy students.
“It’s not the be-all, end-all, but it is a valuable resource and an extra instructional tool that helps you reach some kids that you might not have been able to intrigue them without that little catch,” Gazell said.
Gazell said she hired Lewis for Indian Knoll’s opening two years ago because of her background in teaching and her ability to identify students’ wants and needs more so than many other traditional media specialists. She said Lewis’ new take on the book club is just one of the ways students can use tech tools to learn both inside and outside of the classroom.
“The book club is a wonderful opportunity for kids (and one of the) activities, clubs, and other organizations that allows them to find their niche, attach to that and be successful,” Gazell said.
Lewis’ winning entry can be seen at pbs.org/teachers/innovators/gallery/2012/entries/1078