I currently teach three United States History I courses to sophomores and two AP World History courses to seniors at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Massachusetts. My students come from an diverse range of cultures, learning abilities and economic backgrounds. Our school is a wonderful learning institution full of dedicated teachers. But, like most school systems, funding for school supplies is in short supply.
My primary challenge every year is to find fresh new ways to make the "old stuff" come alive without just showing a bunch of Hollywood movies or documentaries from the History Channel. Our students live in a world full of technology and expect the same in their classroom. So over the last few years I have taken it upon myself to purchase a few technological resources for my students to utilize in the classroom. The problem is that the cost of todays technology is generally prohibitive.
This summer the school did a restructuring and moved several classrooms to create more cohesion among the departments. I was moved into a new classroom that I believed came equipped with an interactive whiteboard and a Short-throw LCD projector. (A short-throw projector is mounted about eighteen inches above the board and projects a full-size image on the board. With a short-throw projector there is no need for long wires to span the floor which are required connect a traditional projector to a computer. This type of projector completely eliminates any trip hazards for the students when they approach the board.)
I immediately incorporated these new resources into my lessons and produced plenty of "oos and "ahhs" from my students who clamoring to be the next person to become involved in the lesson and used the technology. With these two resources I could not only teach students how to write, I could bring up their work on the board and then annotate and correct any mistakes for the whole class to see. I was able teach geography by displaying a map and having the students get up and label various locations of states, cities, natural barriers, battle sites, etc. I was able write notes in PowerPoint before class display them on the board so the students could copy them down immediately instead of having to wait for me to write them down on the board. This gave them more time to discuss, ask questions and debate topics that we are covering rather than just writing notes and notes and notes. Primary sources such as documents and pictures became completely interactive. These resources truly helped me bring history alive to my students. Because both the interactive white board and the projector were wall mounted it eliminated the need for any wires and allowed the students to move about the room and interact with the lesson and with each other.
Unfortunately the projector and the interactive white board were removed from my new classroom because they did not belong to the classroom, but to the ESL department (the former occupants of the room). The school has no plans to replace these resources. Needless to say my students and I are extremely disappointed with this development.
The History Department does have two projectors on rolling carts that must be shared among the fourteen history teachers. But these rolling carts are not conducive because most of my classes have over twenty students and our classroom, when filled with students is very crowded. The rolling carts require me to move seats so the projector can display a full size image and there are wires running all over the floor, creating trip hazards. (We almost lost the whole setup when a student got snagged on one of the wires and took down the computer and the cart.) We also have one computer lab for the students to utilize but it must be shared between to departments, Science and History, consisting of twenty eight teachers. The lab is also quite a distance from my classroom and to use it we must sign up for it and take our students out of their classroom and move them to the lab. (A process that is disruptive to the students and other classes and uses between ten to fifteen minutes of our forty minute class).
I looked into personally purchasing very similar resources to the ones we lost, but the costs are well beyond what I can afford. This is why my students and I are asking for help. Our goal is to raise funds to purchase technological and educational resources that will propel our classroom back to the 21st Century.