Technology in the classroom

A Teacher’s Experience

11/27/2011  |  DEBORAH AUGHEY
Guest Columnist with Deborah Aughey

Deborah Aughey is a National Board Certified high school English teacher who sponsors her school’s online and print newspaper.

Just before graduation in 1983, the journalism teacher of my sleepy southwest Florida high school brought a few editors into the backroom of the library to crowd around the school’s first desktop computer, an Apple 2E. We watched in bemused wonder as he typed a few sentences. He proudly bragged that this computer — that could underline, bold and even italicize words — was going to change the world. It did.

Flash forward to 2011, and my convergence journalism class seamlessly integrates and manipulates a bevy of software programs, smart phone apps and digital media to support our paperless classroom where we publish nine online editions and four printed editions of the newspaper each year.

The students collaborate on the staff Google doc for story ideas. They post articles, videos and slideshows to the online newspaper and video sites. They record interviews and snap pictures on their cell phones, texting and bluetoothing footage and images to each other instantaneously.

My role as a teacher is to coordinate logistics and curriculum while channeling their exuberance from a nugget of a story to a published product. Students love receiving immediate feedback and actively work to improve the areas that the program notes need revision. When I finally read the essay, it has been reviewed, corrected and rescored several times by the student.

They communicate news tips, promote links to their stories and share photos via our class Google+, Twitter and Facebook social networks. In addition, they complete and send PDF pages via cloud computing using web-based design software. The students ably and joyfully move from one digital platform to another in the same way a group of children would scamper around a playground — on the surface, it looks random but up close, it is purposeful, intentional, and autonomous. My students own the information. My role as a teacher is to coordinate logistics and curriculum while channeling their exuberance from a nugget of a story to a published product. Returning editors and I spend the first couple of weeks training new staffers on the programs. They watch, in wonder, as I upload their first stories online and then show them the hit count, often recording scores of hits within seconds of posting. With that epiphany, they no longer write for me — the teacher — or for a grade, they now write for the world.

When I first moved to Georgia, I telecommuted from home as a virtual high school teacher employed at one of the largest and most respected online high schools in the world, the Florida Virtual School. I graded work submitted online, tracked data and called students for assessments, help and gentle nudging. Students entered and exited the course at different sections depending on what kind of credit they needed to earn. I was required to be an expert in all areas of the course at the same time. One student completed the entire “year long” course in nine days. He had failed the class during the school year and his mom would not let him attend band camp without a passing grade. Another student took 70 plodding weeks but completed with a B. The job was ideal for me to chaperone my sons’ fieldtrips and class activities during the day; yet, I missed the experience of working with live teenagers and colleagues. I missed attending pep rallies, sharing stories with an audience, and creating curriculum. I missed the drama of adolescent life. I took a job at a local high school the following year intent on incorporating a virtual face-to-face hybrid learning experience.

While journalism is an elective class, I also teach American Literature and Advanced Placement English Language and Composition. These classes are beholden to state standards, standardized tests and accountability measures upon which our school’s Adequate Yearly Progress success is measured. Integrating technology helps with differentiation, motivation, acceleration and remediation.

The hub of my class is my Typepad blog. It houses the essential questions, the daily agenda, the standards of the courses, and all the handouts, video clips, student models, graphics, photos, images and tutorials for each subject I teach. I started blogging daily because the teachers at my children’s school are required to blog. It has been especially helpful to me, as a parent, to keep up with my sons’ assignments. Even though more than 50 percent of the students at my school participate in the free and reduced lunch program, they find ways to access my blog. I get very positive feedback about it from students, parents and even some teachers who subscribe to the blog feed to see what we are doing in class.

I give my students my cell phone number and permit them to text me or call up to 10:00 pm on school nights. They can also message me by way of the newspaper staff’s Facebook or Twitter accounts. I supervise the social networking sites carefully and delete any posts other than the stories I post to the school community. Communication via technology for the modern teacher is 24/7.

I use several subscription-based programs to support the curriculum for each course. The online textbook from the district-adapted Pearson Prentice Hall series is set up for the students, while I keep a class set in the room. In addition to the eBook, the program contains links, audio and video enrichment. The online textbook series comes with an E-rater writing assessment program. Students love receiving immediate feedback and actively work to improve the areas that the program notes need revision. When I finally read the essay, it has been reviewed, corrected and rescored several times by the student. This program enables me to provide personalized feedback for the students’ effort, ideas and creativity.

I also use the online program,, to post quizzes, extra practice, surveys and reflections. Students sign on and access a calendar to see assignments. I usually set each assessment for students to take up to five times and give them access for at least a week. Sometimes, I even permit them to see the answers after they complete an assessment so they can remediate themselves. One struggling student might review and retake an assessment several times for mastery of skills, while a more advanced student might only need to take the assessment once to demonstrate mastery. In education-speak, this strategy is called differentiation.

Slideshare, Animoto, Spicy Nodes,, Zamzar, Wikispaces, Mahara, Boards2go, Museum Box, Voice Thread, Schooltube, Teachertube, Poll Everywhere, Remember the Milk, Collaborize, Schoology and Noodletools are other software or web-based programs I use to create, convert and display curriculum, organize student projects, host media or encourage student collaboration and interaction. I also use the district-implemented IRespond assessment units, Global Scholar’s Pinnacle online gradebook, an interactive Activboard whiteboard and five desktop computers in the classroom. With the blog, my iPhone, the online textbook program and its resources and my host of interactive and engaging Web 2.0 programs, I have created hybrid courses of virtual and real-time learning; scaffolded remediation, differentiation and acceleration; and provided a variety of student choice for assessments to demonstrate mastery in an autonomous, engaging, nurturing and purposeful classroom environment.

From that Apple of 1983 to the apps of today, technology will continue to evolve and change the way educators envision school, learning and productivity. Like many fields, technology in education provides expediency and efficiency eliminating many of the tedious tasks that once encumbered this job. Teachers today have a dizzying array of technology-based resources available to them. Each teacher must coordinate those that best fit the students’ and parents’ needs in the population that the school serves.

Deborah Aughey is a National Board Certified high school English teacher who lives in Marietta with her English teacher husband and two teenage sons. She sponsors her school’s online and print newspaper as well as volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Her love for literature and great writing has been enhanced immeasurably with the infusion of technology into the modern world by way of her iPhone, Kindle and her virtual professional learning network with whom she communicates via Twitter and Facebook. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa in the late 1980s. Ms. Aughey enjoys reading, writing, cooking and playing tennis.
Comments & Ratings

  3/14/2012 11:50:03 AM

Egg or the Chicken 
What comes first? Bringing technology into the classroom for the students to use OR teaching the students how to type correctly so they can use the technology that is brought into the classroom? Keyboarding is a life long skill. For information on a back-to-basics learn to type program go to