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Center for Advanced Research and Technology: Real-Life Application of Technology « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Center for Advanced Research and Technology: Real-Life Application of Technology

Practice Area: Integration of Technology into Math and Science

Center for Advanced Research and Technology:
Real-Life Application of Technology

Center for Advanced Research and Technology

Clovis, California
Founded 1999
Start-up
1,200 students
Grades 11-12
Site-based
45.1% White, 27.2% Hispanic, 18.4% Asian, 6.4% African-American, 2.8% Other
10% English language learners
2.4% Special needs
46.2% Receive subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit

http://www.cart.org

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2006.

In three-hour labs, CART teaches students math and science skills through the use of technology.

A major goal of using technology in teaching is to motivate and inspire students to do more than minimal work
in school. At CART, students work in teams and use technology to research real-life problems and discover original solutions. Tying student learning to real life seems to diminish some students’
fear or dislike of the sciences.

CART’s program also helps acquaint students with career choices. Students who graduate from CART enter the workforce with exposure to real-world job tasks. The program helps students to know what is expected of them in a work environment.

Implementation

CART technology labs are organized into four broad career clusters that integrate math and science. Teachers tailor these labs annually to suit student interest and technological trends. A team of three or four teachers directs each cluster, each providing a lesson.

The math teacher might offer a problem that requires students to use the computer, such as finding the average weight of the student body in the school.

The biology teacher may instruct students to investigate the life span of mammals using a popular search engine such as Google.

The chemistry teacher might ask students to classify the elements in the periodic table using a taxonomy other than the usual one found in textbooks.

The physics teacher might ask students to search the Internet for the factors accounting for cold temperatures in certain regions of the world.

At times, the teachers collaborate in lab sessions to help students integrate all the subjects into the learning process. One such lesson had the class design a plastic cup or plate with the computer and printed out the design with the lab’s three-dimensional printer. Students calculated the weight of the plastic (physics); found the chemical compositions of various kinds of plastics and used the computer to graph melting and viscosity rates of the plastic when exposed to heat (chemistry); and used a software package with design applications (technology).

Depending on their career interests, students choose one of the clusters and designate a sub-focus for the entire year. For example, a student in the engineering cluster might select biomedical engineering as a sub-focus and use the technology lab to study the impact of poor air quality on lung capacity.

Requirements For Real-Life Application Of Technology

The promising practice of using technology in teaching math and science at CART requires a yearly per-student budget of about $3,800. Grants and donations of about $8 million, most notably from Intel and Microsoft, were used to set up the school. Annual software needs are about $20,000 to $25,000 per year. CART’s five-year technology replacement plan costs about $300,000 annually.

“Smart classrooms,” where a PC can be projected onto a screen, are a necessity. Computer labs should be as cutting edge as the budget will allow, with features that enhance learning: individual computers for all students plus a teacher computer with a front screen, and electricity backup.

Staff with technology knowledge and the ability to share it are crucial. CART’s dean of curriculum and instruction (the lead teacher) serves as a liaison between the network administrator and the teachers. The network administrator may not understand educational programs and the teachers do not always know how to use the technology, though they need to know “more than the students.”

Four days a week, teachers are given two hours midday to plan lessons. Once a week, teachers spend that two-hour block identifying areas in which they need help, and then a fellow teacher offers a presentation to the interested group. Such sessions have covered the use of software in analyzing student test data and the use of Geometer Sketchpad to create geometric shapes.

Mentors from the community fill a necessary niche in teaching students about their real-world career choices. A habitat restoration consultant with the California Department of Fish and Game helps plan environmental science students’ visitations to ponds to collect samples and specimens. A research program specialist with the California Department of Transportation, whose focus is geographical information systems, has helped place CART students in internships at CalTrans.

Lessons Learned

Funding the unexpected is always an issue with technology, CART administrators have said. Software purchases should be made with caution and should incorporate teachers’ input to assure the software will actually be used. Consider “shareware” as well.

Devised by the technology committee and administrators, CART’s “technology refresh” plan is a continual effort to replace old equipment with relevant hardware and software. Projecting the possible costs of upgrade leads to providing the necessary funds well before the time of purchase.

Because technology is always changing, professional development should continually upgrade the staff’s knowledge to support instruction in the classroom.

Conclusion

The lead teacher has said she sees technology as a hook for students that motivates them to learn.

When compared to traditional high schools, CART students generally have a higher attendance record and higher test scores. Many CART students also improve their GPAs between the beginning and end of the school year.

In addition to test scores, consider the real-world application: A biomedical cluster was asked to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI) and offer medical advice to the community volunteers sampled for the experiment.

With a BMI formula from the math teacher, the students used calculators and computers to determine the BMI of more than 20 people, as well as to calculate the average BMI of those involved in the study. The students entered the information into a BMI/age graph. The graph clearly illustrated to the students whose BMI was above average and thus needed a “doctor’s advice.”

Address

Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
3470 Trousdale Parkway
Waite Phillips Hall, Room 901
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039

Phone: (213) 740-0697
Fax: (213) 740-4184
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