Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


By CVN Staff 

English teacher wins $19K for high-tech idea


February 17, 2011

Haines High School English teacher Rene Martin has secured a $19,200 state grant, including a $10,000 award toward new technology in her classroom, for an idea of creating an online, "wiki-style" study guide.

Martin’s proposal was one of eight receiving awards of 68 submitted to the state’s educational technology program.

Haines principal Cheryl Stickler said the award validates what staff here already knows: That Martin incorporates techniques employing technology to engage a high percentage of her students.

"It’s exciting. We’re really proud of her," Stickler said.

Martin uses an electronic chalk-board that’s connected to a computer, in her classroom. She also has students creating blogs and "iMovies" as part of their lessons. As part of the grant award, she’ll be making a presentation this weekend to other English teachers about incorporating technology in the classroom.

"When you use technology, and shake it up a little bit, what students learn sticks in their memory so much more," Martin said this week. "It gets students involved in their learning."

Martin’s idea is for students to use a "wiki" website – one that’s built by contributors – to create study guides for books and other pieces of literature, by providing an overview of plot, as well as character analysis, theme analysis and other elements. Think of CliffsNotes, on the Internet, written by students.

Students often are seeking the "relevance" of a school lesson, Martin said. In literature, relevance is contained in themes that are universal and unchanging through the ages. Use of new technology, she said, can bring that relevance to students, not all of whom are bookworms.

"We live in a world of technology. It’s all around us. We can’t deny it," Martin said.

As long as electronic lessons still can be assessed by reading and writing standards, they’re legitimate, Martin said.

Principal Stickler said Martin was nominated for the recent grant because of her success integrating technology into her classroom. "The more strategies we can use in the one class period to accommodate all the different learning styles, the better the instruction is."

Use of different technologies allows students to "take ownership" of their learning, Stickler said, resulting in lessons better learned, and ultimately, higher test scores.

The grant money includes $2,000 for Martin’s time refining her "wiki" study guide, as well as money to send her and three other Haines teachers to this weekend’s school technology conference.

Martin said much of the credit for her technology work rests with Sam McPhetres, the school’s computer teacher. "We can do this because of Sam. Anything I want, Sam can make happen."

The grant to Martin was part of about $285,000 in technology grants awarded statewide.