Rose Park Magnet Middle Prep teachers tap into tablets with new Microsoft and Vanderbilt University STEM pilot
Teacher Sue Braswell is a woman on a mission. She's not deterred from the challenge of learning the latest Windows even though she's a lifelong Mac operating system user. She has dived in, along with every teacher at her school, to learn how to use tablets in the classroom.
"I will use this and figure this out," Braswell said during a recently held tutorial. "I am so appreciative!"
Teachers at Rose Park Magnet Math and Science Middle Prep are tapping into tablets thanks to a spring STEM pilot with Microsoft that provides each teacher with a Surface Pro tablet. Vanderbilt researchers are part of the partnership, studying the outcomes as part of a research project that will inform the district on how to spread the pilot to more Metro schools.
"No longer can we teach in isolation and be segregated by subject. Technology connects learning across multiple disciplines," said Rose Park Executive Principal Robert Blankenship. "Technology is not to be feared but to be embraced and we are going to embrace it together at Rose Park."
Jennier Ufnar, director of the Scientists in the Classroom Partnership and Interdisciplinary Science and Research programs at Vanderbilt University, recalls when Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner visited Rose Park.
He asked, "What do you need?" Ufnar said. From there, the pilot was born, not long after Turner followed up with Rose Park through the company's education director. "Microsoft asked if Metro Schools would develop the program," Ufnar said. The pilot was formally organized over the summer.
"This pilot will actively bring in new curriculum that focuses on twenty-first century skills," Ufnar said.
As part of the partnership, Vanderbilt researchers will use what they learn from the pilot to further develop professional opportunities based on best practices, prescribing professional development as the project expands to other schools.
"Everybody is coming at this from a different experience base," said Cathy Cavanaugh, Director of Teaching and Learning of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. Cavanaugh said the pilot deepens a sense of community among the teachers as they share what they're applying in the classroom with each other and finding tools and apps to make the curriculum more accessible for the next generation of learners.
Using the online game Minecraft to teach sixth grade Roman and Greek history is just one example of how the partnership between Microsoft and Metro Schools can empower students in STEM by using technology to understand the world around them, according to Kris Elliott, director of STEM at Metro Schools. "It's not about a device. It's about the community engaging students in STEM throughout the middle school experience," Elliott said. Future opportunities as a byproduct of the pilot include students being able to earn Microsoft certifications at the middle school level.
"Teacher leadership is essential as more schools in the district adopt the technology framework created by the Rose Park teachers," Elliott said.