WILLIAMSTOWN -- When Richard Scullin came to Mount Greylock Regional High School five months ago as its newly hired instructional technology specialist, the building had no wireless Internet access.
Today the school not only has Wi-Fi, but students and teachers are using it to virtually manipulate proteins, teach Internet safety and awareness, and learn subject-specific strategies through the newly established Mount Greylock Digital Media & Learning Lab (DML).
"Teachers are individuals and so are kids. In the lab, I’m working with teachers on how to improve their practice based on what they’re doing in class," Scullin said.
Examples of such work done this fall include the use of Prezi, an interactive whiteboard-style presentation software, to create atomic structures of elements listed in the periodic table, and an online program called FoldIt, where students fold proteins in a competitive game that actually contributes to scientific research on cures for diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer.
"The students learned how to use that one [FoldIt] in one class period. A lot of applications for digital learning are project-based and inquiry-based," Scullin said.
He said the majority of digital and mobile applications the school is using are cost-free.
The instructional technology specialist partnered with English teacher Liza Barrett to conduct a multi-week exploration of autobiography and "digital citizenship" with seventh-graders. Part of the project’s goal was to make students more aware of and fluent in digital media literacy and practices.
The educators first asked students to profile themselves and the contexts they might find themselves in. Responses ranged from the home to the classroom to a sports field.
"No one really wrote about their digital self," Scullin said. After further discussions, the classes, about a hundred students in total, identified nearly 25 percent of their time is spent in a digital realm, from cell phone use to social media.
Beyond his work at Mount Greylock, Scullin is also the founder of MobileEd.org, a local tech company dedicated to helping teachers and students integrate mobile and digital technologies into inquiry-based learning and curriculum content.
He has worked and continues to work with educators and technology innovations via national and global initiatives like the International Society for Technology in Education, SXSW the MacArthur Foundation’s inaugural conference, Digital Media and Learning at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.
"Digital media is changing how we’re learning. This is an effort to do it more responsibly," Scullin said.
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