Teaching Technology with a Twist

Merging her love for technology with her experience in the classroom, Heidi McDaniel has taken the application of technology in the Lower School well beyond the days of just Accelerated Reading tests.

McDaniel, Lower School technology teacher, began integrating technology into her classroom well before she took over the computer lab. “When I was teaching first grade, the school got one computer for everyone to use,” said McDaniel, who also has taught kindergarten, third, and fourth grades in her 20 years at USJ. “I wanted to learn to use it. The more I used it, the more I liked it.”

“As a third grade teacher, I used the computer to expand the world for my students beyond our classroom by emailing a pen pal in the Peace Corps in Cape Verde. In fourth grade, I had students researching information on each state and eventually putting together a PowerPoint for each state. Computers in my classroom were hooked to the Internet well before other classrooms so my students could learn to do research.”

When the technology position opened, McDaniel knew it was the job for her. “One of the benefits of my being in the computer lab is that I know about most of the curriculum in each grade level, which helps me relate the computer lessons to what is being taught in the classroom."

Students start classes in the computer lab in first grade. “With each grade level, I increase what I expect them to do,”

McDaniel said. “Students learn many of the programs they will use throughout their educational careers, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. They also learn research skills, formatting tools, and shortcuts. We also spend one to two months talking about online safety and responsibility. We hope to add a workshop on Internet safety for our parents.”

Innovation is a big part of McDaniel’s role in the technology program, and several of her practices in the classroom have earned recognition for her and valuable equipment for the school.

For example, through an online competition on the “We are Teachers” website, McDaniel submitted an entry about ways she and her students keep germs at bay in the computer lab. She received a $100 grant for classroom supplies and a flip camera that is used throughout the Lower School to make videos of events and field trips.

After entering a contest sponsored by one of the school’s network subscription services every day, she was the monthly winner of three digital signs worth $10,000-$15,000, which are now in use on both campuses.

Her quest to find innovative ways to help teachers and students led McDaniel to recommend the new SMART interactive projectors that were installed in each Lower School classroom. Besides training the teachers to use the new interactive projectors, she has been working with teachers as they develop their own website.

“I tell everyone that I have the best job in the Lower School,” said McDaniel. “We all have such cool tools and toys in the Lower School now — but I’m the one who gets to use them all day, every day!