George Lucas Educational Foundation

Elementary Students Get a Wired Education

Computers and multimedia are seamlessly woven into the curriculum at technology-rich Mary Scroggs Elementary School. Read the article.
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Teacher: Okay, pull.

Narrator: From the outside, Mary Scroggs Elementary School looks like it could have been built in the '20s, but this building, part of a neo-traditional development in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is just three years old, and on the inside, it's one of the most wired schools in the country.

Teacher: And there's our web page, and our end of the day summary.

Narrator: Here, tech tools facilitate everything from kindergarten web pages to the daily morning newscast.

Student: The news is brought to you by the students from Miss Todd's third grade class. Now, Bryson, what are today's announcements?

Bryson: Hello Scroggs Frogs, here are today's announcements. Today, Wednesday, some people--

Susan: We let everyone from kindergarteners to fifth graders try it. And then they practice with their teachers in the classroom. I give them a sample script, they practice with that. And then they come down, and that morning, the five or ten kids that are going to be on, and we run through it a few times with them, and then we do it live every day.

Student: I woke up, I listened to all the different sounds coming from--

Susan: I've got four fifth grade helpers. They're there every day to help with all the backstage stuff, and they basically run the whole show.

Student: Dear Martin Luther King, I have a problem. It's that all children cannot have equal access to shelter and healthcare.

Susan: Sometimes it's really good, sometimes it's not, and sometimes we have major calamities and sometimes it goes smoothly.

Student: Today's date is January 15th, 2000 and--

Narrator: The newscast is beamed to every room in the building over the school-wide data network.

Susan: The general setup of technology here is that we have four to five computers in every classroom, and then we have three wireless labs of iBook computers, so everybody has a network account, and a kid can walk just about anywhere in the school, log into the computer, and get what they need. All their documents are available to them from almost any computer in the school.

Teacher: The laptop people, Miss Dodge will come around and let you know when it's time for you to log in, okay? All right.

Susan: And those wireless labs come into play when a teacher needs to introduce something new, or have the whole class working on a project at the same time, maybe to move through a project a little bit faster, or because that's the best way to teach the concept.

Teacher: The main thing that I want you to focus on today, is how to group your information so when you start writing, you'll be able to get your paragraphs.

Susan: The inspiration, and kidspiration, are both very powerful tools, because they allow children to organize their thoughts and their ideas before writing.

Teacher: A lot of people are moving into their spreadsheets now. Make sure you have the number of shares of each stock filled out.

Narrator: Much of the school's curriculum is delivered through projects like this stock picking competition.

Student: I get General Electric, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nike and Target.

Narrator: Students often work in pairs, with tech savvy students tutoring their peers.

Student: Did you get your stuff today or yesterday?

Student: Yesterday.

Student: Oh, okay.

Susan: Kids who spend more time on computers at home, are much more comfortable doing basic things here at school, working the mouse, working the keyboard, typing, scouting around, being creative on the computer. And we want to give kids who don't have the resources at home, necessarily, we want to give them more opportunities.

Teacher: The goals of the Tech at Home programs are to extend the learning opportunities and resources into students' homes--

Narrator: To help bridge this digital divide, the school established a Tech at Home program, which provides free computers and low internet access fees to families of students on free and reduced lunch.

Julie: Our goal is that children will be online every night, they'll look up our website, they'll-- when they see our website, they'll see a homepage that will give you updates of what's going on at Mary Scroggs in our classroom. They'll find a separate homework link where they'll go and see the homework for the week.

Student: Tuesday.

Dorothy: Tuesday, what do you have to do today?

Narrator: So far, the Tech at Home program is getting high marks from teachers and parents like Dorothy Setliff.

Dorothy: They're naturally inclined to start using computers early, they play games on it, and it's so that it becomes, homework becomes like part of the game. Having him start now, means that it will be so much easier later on.

How do you spell music, do you remember?

Student: U, U, U..

Dorothy: That's right, then what?

Julie: A majority of the homework that we're moving more toward is, they respond through the e-mail to me, because it's a really great way to keep track of their homework, I can reply very easily. Less paperwork, I don't have a stack of papers to go through that sometimes don't make it back home. It's just much easier to give them immediate feedback through the e-mail.

Student: Send it to me on the e-mail.

Dorothy: And having a nice way of getting in contact with the teacher, just send an e-mail, and you get an e-mail back, rather than trying to catch a teacher on the telephone. Now old technology, this is much better.

Kathleen: That's the sound a crow makes. Let's see if we hear that sound?

Narrator: In addition to new technology, Mary Scroggs new building design facilitates a variety of learning experiences.

Kathleen: Put your binoculars on. I see something on that tree right there. Can you look right straight--

I think that the building itself is just wonderful. It's beautiful and I love the porches. The area for science, for what we're doing with the birds, as far as having bird feeders out there, and the children being able to go out and watch the birds.

Kathleen: You see a blue jay?

Student: Me, too.

Narrator: Inside, every classroom features wall coverings that allow children's work to be displayed everywhere. There are several rooms where teachers can gather and small nooks for one-on-one sessions. In fact, the building has been an asset in recruiting prospective teachers, especially when they learn that they will have their own office and phone.

Paula: I think typically, over the years, teachers have gotten by on a shoestring. They're told they're professionals, but sometimes not always treated as professionals. For teachers, it's a big deal to have a phone that they can use throughout the day, either to communicate with parents, or to be available to their own families.

Narrator: The physical plant is just part of the appeal of working here. For kindergarten teacher, Kathleen Eveleigh, the best of Mary Scroggs, the technology, the literacy focus, and the parent involvement parts, come together every day when her kids write the end of the day summary.

Kathleen: Who has something to tell me about what we've done today? Jeffrey?

Jeffrey: Are we going to have enough room for the whole webpage just on that one line?

Kathleen: We will, you'll be surprised. It just goes right down.

When we started discussing ways to make the webpage more powerful, the suggestion came up of putting a daily synopsis of what we had done during the day, and it was very easy to sit down with the children, just put the keyboard in my lap, and just go to it.

Student: Some people want to reading books.

Kathleen: Some people--

And it tied in with what we do in literacy, which is to have children say things and you write them out for them, and then they're able to read what they have said. And so it tied into the balanced literacy that we do in our school.

Our mystery was four o'clock. Very good.

All of a sudden, I was getting e-mails from parents, letters from parents, I love the website, it's helping me so much, I can get things from the web page, and then ask my child about it, and we have so much to talk about, so that kind of input just got me more excited, and then I just started doing it more and more, and making sure I was doing it every day.

Jeffrey: We had a fantastic super day.

Kathleen: We had a fantastic super day. Wow, that sounds so great. You guys did a good job. See you-- do you want me to put, see you tomorrow? See you tomorrow.

Narrator: For more information on, What Works in Public Education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Leigh Iacobucci


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • John Paul Demè
  • Robert O. Weller

Production Assistant:

  • Miwa Yokoyama


  • Kris Welch

Editor's Note: Although most of the teachers interviewed in this video have moved on since it was filmed in 2002, the school continues to infuse technology throughout its curriculum. Unfortunately, the grant for the Tech@Home program has expired, but school staff seek new funding to reinstate it.

Comments (38) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Alan Byerley's picture

Having students on-line every night e-mailing and asking questions sounds like a wonderful idea at first. The next thought that comes to mind is when does my day end. The second thought is how often do I check my e-mail. Parents can access and ask questions but how quickly is the response expected. The next thought is that I now have a record of the correspondence. With one class this may seem manageable, but with 100 plus students is this realistic?

Carol's picture

Hi Alan - I think that is a very valid concern. One of my primary thoughts with email is that as educators we need to be really aware of not getting into a situation where we are "on call" 24/7. I work hard to be there for my students - but if my days never end, when will I recharge? No other professional, that I know of, are available via email 24/7 (without extra charges) - doctors, lawyers, accountants ..... we need, as educators, to make sure we work as professionals.

As I watch this video, I think it is important to note that the conversations don't indicate an instant response. As long as we set parameters for our response time (for example, within 24 - 48 hours) and stick by them, email can be a very efficient way to communicate for some.

Michele T.'s picture

I am a person who did not grow up with technology, but now that I have found it I will never go back. I feel that integrating technology in the classroom as early as you can is so important. I know some nay sayers feel that technology funds should not be used in grades k-5 but this is a great example as to why they should.

John's picture
6th, 7th, & 8th grade teacher

The earlier the better. Children look so comfortable with technology as part of their daily routine. Real tech natives.

HiFIKIDS's picture
HiFiKIDS Corporation is an another revolutionary way of motivating kids for studies or anything of their interests. We encourage kids to come up and present their topic of interests in front of the video camera by asking one single question at the end of their presentation with multiple choice answers (Remember "Who wants to be a millionaire" or "Who is smarter then 5th grader?" format but here kids act like an anchor of the's "WHo wants to be hifikids scholar?" program) and then upload the video presentation in our Virtual School. It comes for the approval to check if the contents are appropriate for that age and submitted parameters are appropriate. Once approved by the approver it then gets published for the similar age kids who are living around that place so that neighborhood kids can understand their language ascent very well. So the number of questions kids submit and the number questions kids answer correctly which is submitted by another same age kids are totalled which generates passion graph. In this public level program, we encourage kids to come up with the topics they love or they know the most or they enjoy the most and can comfortably present in front of the camera. This is how our passion graph accurately shows their growing passion and by doing this over the period will help teachers /parents to know their real interests or genuine skills. We are doing some small pilot programs in some schools in India and results are very positive. It is indeed motivating kids and they are coming up with new new topics on their own. Some kids are very interested in poems, or some in maths or some in science experiments or some in history or some in geography. Some also presents sport activities. When they watch other's videos they get motivated and compete with each other to present more and more videos.
We also have a plan to expand this concept to make a full virtual school for the kids across the globe.
Founder of

George's picture

The use of video media is an excellent way to have kids expand their use of language and self confidence. There are schools that have many types of technology and these schools are modern schools that are changing or adapting to the digital generation.

Wayne Landry's picture
Wayne Landry
Clinical Teacher

More and more our world is moving toward learning by computer. There are many who resist the unstoppable transistion. But I think it should be embraced, accepted and allowed to assist us in our everyday living. Our children regrad the uses of technology/computer as no more than breathing or taking out the trash. It is natural and routinish.
As teachers technology is the present and future. It is important that we engage our students in the aapplication.

Emilia olvera's picture
Emilia olvera
V.I. Houston Texas

This is a excellent example that every school need follow.
The world is changing, we need change too.

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