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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

A Commitment to High Tech Education

Sophisticated electronic gadgets such as probes and global-positioning-system devices catch students' interest at Harrison Central High School. Read the article.
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A Commitment to High Tech Education (Transcript)

Narrator: Gulfport, Mississippi's Harrison Central High School hasn't changed much since it was founded in 1957. It still has sports teams and cheerleaders. It still offers practical courses in subjects like cooking and horticulture. But over the past several years there's been a quiet revolution going on that has transformed Harrison's curriculum. In almost every classroom cutting edge technology tools are facilitating a new way of learning.

Student: [Inaudible] today is what could be said about national politics. Is it A, the republican party held the majority of voters? B-

Narrator: Now history lessons are as exciting as game shows.

Student: What is your final answer?

Narrator: Digital cameras help reveal the principles of physics.

Donnie Lott: Are we collecting?

Narrator: Probes and laptops are used in real world scientific explorations.

They even use technology to improve their nationally ranked cheerleading squad.

Dianne Denley: Okay, breathe three times. In with the good, out with the bad. And rest for just a minute.

When we had tryouts we realized a lot of our cheerleaders were not as physically fit as they needed to be to be able to go through a competition routine that it only lasts two minutes but those two minutes are jam packed with stunts. So we try to come up with a conditioning program and we use the computers and the probes to tell us what the heart rate was before they exercised, and then what it was afterwards and also the respiration.

Student: Like without this stuff we'd have no idea like how much things have changed in, you know, where we started and where we're at now. It lets people know you know that they've either been working hard enough or they need to work a little bit harder.

Narrator: Data from the cheerleader workouts is given to students in an Algebra II class for analysis.

Student: The cheerleaders gave us the information and we have plotted it by using our calculators. We used a thing called linear regression to get basically the average increase or decrease.

Charlotte Arledge: These students are just learning how to graph equations and instead of just plain graphing numbers, we're graphing real data so they can have something meaningful for their work.

Narrator: Math teacher, Charlotte Arledge uses technology to help students make connections between abstract concepts and real world applications whether they're graphing local hurricane tides-

Student: On the tide tables it was point seven feet at twelve-oh-five P.M. which our X values are the times and Y values are-

Narrator: Or taking virtual field trips around the world.

Teacher: We're going to find antique carousels online around the world.

Most of our kids never get out of Harrison County so when I can send kids on a virtual field trip around the world, it's just amazing.

Student: Right now I'm tracing myself so I can determine my velocity of the ball-

Narrator: In this physics class students use video cameras, photo gates, and other high-tech gadgets to explore the science behind their personal passions.

Olivia Graves: If you consider a minute ago you went from up there to the floor in a thirtieth of a second. So your acceleration and your average velocity was a lot faster.

The idea that students are actually going to benefit from sitting in the desk all day long I think is a fallacy and a problem with education and this gets them moving around, discovering, learning. Discovery to me is the most important part of education.

Student: I'm going to measure the sound wave and the acceleration or velocity of my strokes. Like I thought this course was going to be like oh my god, physics formulas, math. But actually when you're actually doing things it makes it fun.

Narrator: Fun is also part of the lesson plan for this American History class which combines a game show format with a new remote control technology called e-Clicks.

Student: A, Colorado, B-

Karen Levins: I notice that the kids really enjoy it and I've actually compared test scores after I've done reviews with the e-Clicks and with scores where we haven't done it and their scores are actually better.

Student: Or is it D, Troubelist?

Karen Levins: Then it's good for me because I can go in, print the results, and I can see who is having problems with what area and I can cover it gain if I need to.

Tell me why Wyoming wanted to have women vote?

Student: Most of the men were leaving so they brought women in and gave them rights to vote so they would bring the- it would bring all the men back to the state.

Student: It helps you learn because it get everybody involved. It's fun or whatever so we can just you know all be-

Student: Interact.

Student: Together, interact, yeah.

Narrator: At Harrison students often get a chance to interact with outside experts.

Plastics Expert: Usually you can do that by rapid profiling. It's computer generated. It's got two lasers.

Narrator: In this computer-ed tech class students get advice on their individual computer designs from an expert in plastics.

>Student: The buttons are in the eyes. The right one is the distraught button and when you push it it pops out of his mouth and it's kind of like he's sticking his tongue out.

Plastics Expert: That's probably one of the cheapest designs you probably could come up with that here. That's a good one.

Angela Clark: We are going to actually plot points at the edges of every building at the corners, and then find the distance in between, and then we're going to create what from ArcView?

Student: Maps.

Angela Clark: Okay very good, excellent.

Narrator: In this sophomore math class, seventh and eighth graders from nearby North Gulfport Middle School are the visiting experts teaching the older Harrison students how to use GPS devices.

Student: This shows you the coordinates. There's the north coordinate. There's the west coordinate.

Angela Clark: The students in eighth grade are just beginning to grow and mature and so for them to be able to show older students is just an incredible experience for them.

Student: The northwest corner.

Student: Yeah.

Student: So write down "30 degrees."

Student: For latitude, longitude, or elevation?

Student: Latitude.

Angela Clark: I have students who are high achievers. We've got some that are low achievers and we've got some in the middle and once they get their hands on this technology that just doesn't even matter. They rise up to the standard that you set for them and this is something that's new, it's innovative, and one day many of these kids will be doing this for their career.

Student: What was it, 30?

Student: Uh-huh.

Donnie Lott: At this point you should know which types are probes and what data collection you're going to be making.

Narrator: In an outdoor science classroom built by students preparations are underway for the weekly lab assignment. After a 15 minute trek on the school's nature trail students stop at specific points along the stream to take water samples. The data they collect and analyze is then passed on to local water quality agencies.

Student: How cold is it?

Student: We're at three point eight.

Donnie Lott: One way that you can excite kids is by getting them outside of the classroom, letting them get their hands on something and get a feel of what's going on.

Take your one milliliter of water, pull your film up, place it on the center, lay your film back down and just run your finger across it. That's all you've got to do.

When you can take kids out and actually show them something, let them participate, let them figure out how to do it on their own, and then let them interpret what they figure out, then it has real meaning for them.

So you're doing PH over time?

Student: Uh-hum.

Donnie Lott: So within a minute it's realistic to expect that you would collect 900, 1,000 data sets?

Student: Geez, okay.

Donnie Lott: Okay?

Those are the kinds of skills that I think kids need, analytical skills. Not just simple memorization or comprehension. You know we need to take them beyond that level to being able to explain their reason.

Student: It's a good water-quality indicator so and then the crawfish are under fair water quality so I guess the water down there is okay.

Teacher: And then you're going to graph it?

Student: Graph it-

Narrator: For district technology coordinator, Charlotte this is the kind of learning that makes the challenge of technology integration worth the effort.

Charlotte Daves: I love to watch the students learn. I like to see the light bulb go off. I like to see the teachers feel successful that yes! When you know you did it, that spark, when you see that happen, when you see the classroom gel, when you see the students sparkle, when you have them running up to you and they want to be at school and they want to learn, you know that you've done what you're supposed to do because learning is life-long and learning is exciting and it's fun, but it's also personal. And we try to make learning personal in Harrison County Schools.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Diane Curtis
  • Leigh Iacobucci


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Bob Boccaccio
  • Hans van den Bold

Production Assistant:

  • Miwa Yokoyama


  • Susan Blake

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