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Sixty Boston Public Schools Get Internet/Technology Boost at MIT

Cambridge, MA--Teachers and parents from 60 of Boston's public schools have gathered at MIT this week and last week to expand their school's links to technology. The Summer Technology Institute, hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's School of Architecture and Planning will give teachers and parents the tools and support to become advocates for technology within their schools and will help them develop curriculum units that incorporate technology. The program, in its second year, brings together over 180 people in teams comprised of two teachers and one parent from elementary, middle and secondary schools across the city.

"This is the Information Age and the schools have to be there to help kids be knowledgeable about technology as information technology becomes a part of everyday life," said Anne Beamish, MIT's coordinator for the Science Technology Institute.

This major initiative to expand technology in the schools gives educators and parents hands-on experience using the kinds of technology that could bring globe-spanning information into Boston's classrooms. The groups participate in labs on using e-mail, they navigate the World Wide Web, they learn about newsgroups and practice using WWW software with the assistance of graduate students from MIT's Urban Planning and Architecture departments who act as coaches. The groups will also learn how to put together a site technology plan. The workshop allows the teachers and volunteers precisely the kind of study that can't be fit into the busy school year.

"During the summer, when we don't have the responsibility of school, we're more able to concentrate on a topic like this," said Diane Davis, a ninth grade teacher in Madison Park High School's Commerce Academy. "We're able to do it for several days and we're really able to learn the information--able to absorb it."

Teams participate in joint projects and hear speakers from organizations such as Apple and IBM speak on technology topics.

For one project, a group had to find the temperature in Rome, Italy using the Internet. They worked with search engines that find information on the Web and narrowed down the results until they found the needed information. The exercises showed the need for teachers to do some Web sleuthing as part of their lesson preparation to make sure the tasks were doable with reasonable effort, explained Davis. Also, teacher lesson plans, which were most often done at home, were shown to be more challenging to put together without having the same computer access as the classroom.

Teams will come together three times in the coming year to share experiences, brainstorm solutions, and participate in additional training--extending the impact of this summer's sessions.

The Summer Technology Institute was spearheaded by the Boston Public School's Office of Instructional Technology in collaboration with MIT's School of Architecture and Planning and the Center for Leadership Development. The program is funded by the State Street Foundation.

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