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The Teacher Explorer Center: providing techniques and training in multimedia instruction.

The Teacher Explorer Center: Providing Techniques & Training in Multimedia Instruction

In the fall of 1989 Michigan's Department of Education awarded a grant to East Lansing Public Schools to create a Teacher Explorer Center (TEC) as a model classroom of the 21st century. The center is co-sponsored by the state's Department of Education, East Lansing Public Schools and Ingham County Intermediate School District.

Over the next several months, the TEC staff contacted dozens of technology manufacturers to see if they would become business partners. By the beginning of March 1990, 27 firms had agreed, pledging a total of more than $1 million in resources to the center. Three companies in particular contributed substantially: IBM Corp.'s Lansing branch office; Sony Showcase, a Lansing-based audio-visual equipment company; and Data Image, a Midland, Mich. firm specializing in computer-projection products for the classroom.

The TEC Model

During March and April 1990 the Teacher Explorer Center received several shipments of equipment from its business partners. East Lansing Public Schools, under the leadership of its district data services director, Larry Freds, donated a complex of two classrooms and an office plus furniture, utilities (including air conditioning for the summer workshops), room renovation, administrative and custodial support, and technical and manual help in constructing the center.

In April a flyer was sent to 75,000 Michigan educators and the TEC began registering teachers for its spring and summer six-hour training workshops.

On May 21, 1990 the TEC conducted its first workshop. The five teams of teachers and administrators who attended this inaugural workshop, and all succeeding workshops, came from school districts across the state. During the weeks that followed, an additional 500 Michigan educators attended the center's one-day workshop. And 97 percent of those who received training said they found it to be "valuable" or "extremely valuable." To date, the TEC has received requests for training from over 4,000 teachers representing almost one-fourth of Michigan's school districts.

Expanding Influence

The Teacher Exlporer Center has received publicity from all over Michigan, from around the U.S. and from abroad. Television crews from local and national news programs have visited and the TEC has been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Inquiries come from as far as Ireland, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico.

Based on the huge statewide demand for the TEC's workshop, the State Board of Education recently voted to renew the grant to the center for another year (October 1, 1990 through September 30, 1991). Under its new grant the TEC can expand its training program from two to five days per week, add multimedia telecommunications strategies to its curriculum, and help two "sister" explorer centers get started in other parts of the state.

The TEC's sister centers--Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and Bay de Noc Community College--received funding from the State Board of Education in mid-November of 1990. The new centers will specialize in teacher training; in undergraduate, preservice teacher instruction; in vocational training; in continuing education; and in reading instruction. All three centers are already conducting an interactive exchange via modem. In the future they hope to offer two-way telecourses via satellite, cable and fiber-optics. And the three are actively recruiting new school districts, regional training agencies and institutions of higher education to join an expanding network of TECs. The Michigan Department of Education hopes that by the mid-1990s there will be a cluster of Teacher Explorer Centers regionally distributed across the state running teacher-training courses for preservice and inservice teachers.

Key Teaching Strategies

The Teacher Explorer Center is organized around five key teaching strategies for the 1990s:

* cooperative learning;

* critical and creative thinking;

* classroom publishing;

* thematic "whole-language" inquiry; and

* learners taking responsibility for their learning.

Figure 1 graphically shows how these strategies relate to one another. To implement them, the TEC has five "multimedia research and publishing (R&P) centers" around the classroom. Each R&P center is utilized by a team of four participants for instant multimedia publishing. Each R&P comprises:

* two computers;

* a videodisc player;

* an audio CD player and a

CD-ROM drive;

* a VCR;

* a TV;

* a video-capture card;

* a camcorder;

* a microphone; and

* an audio-capture card.

In addition, all R&Ps are tied via a Token Ring network to a laser printer, a color dot-matrix printer, a scanner, a 600MB file server and a CD-ROM optical server. Every educator team has instant access to resources that include Grolier's Electronic Encyclopedia, World Book's Information Finder, Microsoft Bookshelf, National Geographic's Mammals and, on a stand-alone server, Britannica/Compton's MultiMedia Encyclopedia.

The TEC maintains a sizable CD library containing dozens of audio CDs from sponsor Windham Hill Records, as well as other discs that offer thousands of songs, speeches and sound effects. The center also has a library of 12" videodiscs including all 40 volumes of The Video Encyclopedia of The 20th Century; five sets of the Martin Luther King Jr. disc; WGBH-Nova's Pathfinders; National Geographic's GTV; science discs from Optical Data Corp. and Videodiscovery; classic movie, art, and literature discs from The Voyager Co.; the National Gallery of Art disc; Scholastic's Hurricane Hugo; ABC News InterActive's The '88 Vote, In the Holy Land and For All Mankind titles; plus many more discs that teach science, literature, social studies, art and world affairs.

In addition, several advanced audio, video and computer-display technologies are demonstrated at the TEC. These include:

* MIDI keyboards to create audio environments for


* Audio-capture cards to add sounds to student


* Powerful, miniature, amplified speakers;

* Surround-sound audio for "swear-you-are-there";

* Video "wallpaper";

* CoVid 123-A VGA to S-Video converter;

* Sony 41" rear-projection, S-Video monitor;

* Sony face-to-face digitizing video telephones;

* Sharp XV-100 liquid-crystal video projector;

* Epson Crystal Image video projector;

* Proxima MultiMode LCD data display;

* Dukane portable overhead projector; and

* 3M Model 4080 color LCD data display.

Expectations vs. Reality

Every educator, parent, community leader or policymaker is eligible to visit the Teacher Explorer Center and take its one-day training workshop. (The Michigan State Board of Education grant enables Michigan educators to attend the workshop for free.)

After the workshop ends, participants fill out an evaluation survey in which they critique the six-hour program and rate their experiences. The first question in the survey asks, "What did you think the Teacher Explorer Center would look like before you entered the room?" The second question asks, "What did you expect to learn before you entered the room?"

In the past, participants' answers to these questions were a real eye-opener! Most teachers had no idea what to expect. Many expected the TEC to look like a futuristic movie set, something straight out of "Buck Rogers." And almost no one anticipated the real thing: an almost-ordinary, high-school classroom with normal high-school tables and chairs organized as cooperative-learning centers in a circle around the room.

Almost everyone also expected the day to be a series of glitzy presentations on "the classroom of the future." Again almost no one anticipated that teachers were expected to roll up their sleeves the moment they arrived and dive right into a team-publishing project to make a videotape to take back home.

To prepare teachers for their day at the center we now send out a "What to Expect" flyer. We also give each team a "room map" showing the teacher in the center of an inquiry-driven classroom that is powered by student teams using high-tech tools to perform multimedia research, investigation and publishing. The teacher functions as an explorer, a content specialist, a learning specialist and a resource expert in this new type of classroom.

We have designed the one-day workshop around vertical teams composed of one administrator and three teachers. At the beginning of the workshop we ask teachers to look for things they can do now back in their own classrooms. And we ask the administrators to think strategically about how they can train their teachers, purchase new technology and plan new learning environments for the 1990s and beyond.

Strategies for Getting Started

Getting started is often the hardest part in any endeavor. At the East Lansing TEC, each team of workshop participants is given a Starter Kit that contains, among other things, a strategy for setting up four different levels of multimedia classrooms:

Level One: Do-It-Yourself Classroom Learning Center Level Two: Teacher Presentation Center Level Three: Multimedia Training & Publishing Center Level Four: Teacher Explorer Center

The kit describes each level in great detail, but in general, Level One is the quickest and least expensive way for a school to get started while Level Four is the most time-consuming and most expensive.

Describing a multimedia classroom in terms of levels can assist school districts to design a technology plan. Level One can be part of phase one of a district's technology plan. Level Two is implemented after phase one; and so on till Level Four is a reality.

On the other hand, a district could reach out to its student's parents and business community for a partnership to implement Level Four (TEC) immediately. Also, there are numerous state, federal, and private-foundation grant programs that may potentially be used to fund the creation of a TEC, including grants targeted for drug education, special-education and at-risk students.

The important thing is for a district to begin now. Every district, no matter how rich or poor, big or small, can use the tools and strategies just described to train teachers and revolutionize classroom learning. You can begin with big bucks and big ambitions; or you can begin small, simple and be experimental. Either way, as hundreds of Michigan teachers have learned, it is now possible to make classroom learning more exciting than MTV. [Figure 1 Omitted]


Fred D'Ignazio is director of the Teacher Explorer Center. He is the author of over 20 books, a national TV and radio commentator on education and technology, and an internationally known expert on multimedia classrooms and cooperative learning. He has presented multimedia workshops in over 60 school districts around North America and has held faculty positions at institutes in Brazil, Portugal, England, Canada and the U.S.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on a typical day at the Teacher Explorer Center; East Lansing, Michigan Public Schools
Author:D'Ignazio, Fred
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Previous Article:Planning and developing a multimedia learning environment.
Next Article:Multimedia curriculum development: a K-12 campus prepares for the future.

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