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An Island’s Past Is Coming To Light, Thanks To Technology And Cooperative Efforts With U.Va.

Sept. 9, 1999 -- As University of Virginia faculty and students work with educators in Bermuda schools to help them learn how to use technology in their teaching, something unexpected has happened: some of the island's untold history is beginning to unfold.

Faculty in U.Va.'s Curry School of Education began working with mathematics and social studies teachers in the self-governing British colony this summer to help them incorporate technology in their instruction. Curry faculty, for example, are helping social studies teachers modify their traditional instructional methods to include the use of computers and software packages and to learn about the resources available on the Web.

By accessing such primary sources as soldiers' diaries online through the Virginia Center for Digital History, the teachers learned new ways to make history seem personal and more interesting for their students. Having long decried the lack of Bermuda history in textbooks, the teachers decided to start a project in which high school students interview island residents to gain first-person accounts of Bermuda’s development.

About three-fifths of Bermuda's population are descendants of African slaves. Other Bermudans include descendants of Portuguese laborers and British colonists. The students' interviews with the island's residents, when placed on the Internet, will serve as a means of preserving important history.

Curry faculty will return to the island in November to continue helping teachers gain skill in using Web-based studies. In addition, a U.Va. graduate student is based in Bermuda this fall to help teachers with the digitized history project and other uses of technology in instruction.

"It's very exciting to work together to tell Bermuda's untold story," said Glen Bull, co-director of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education in U.Va.'s Curry School. "The work will help change how history is viewed in Bermuda."

The partnership grew out of overtures Bermuda ministry of education representatives made last fall. After contacting U.S. education officials to learn which institutions might help the country incorporate technology into public school teaching, they learned that the Curry School has become widely known as a model for integrating technology into content areas. Bermuda officials visited the Curry School last fall to learn what services could be provided.

Joe Garofalo, a co-director of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education who specializes in mathematics education, and Cheryl Mason, an assistant professor who specializes in using technology in social studies instruction, worked with Bull to develop a proposal for how the school could work with Bermuda teachers. They proposed making on-site visits to acquaint teachers with educational technologies and supplementing those visits with videoconferences. Curry faculty expect that the videoconferences will continue for two years as a key part in the school’s "collaborative education" approach.

Through high-speed connections via Internet 2, faculty and teachers can engage in discussions and share ideas in real time. For instance, a videoconference in July on Web design allowed Curry students to give Bermuda teachers comments on their Web sites. "It was rewarding to see the teachers so visibly excited about their Web pages and the feedback they were receiving," Mason said.

In addition to helping Bermuda social studies teachers, the Curry faculty and students are helping math teachers incorporate technology in their instruction. For example, Garofalo is demonstrating how to involve high schoolers in mathematical thinking through the use of graphing calculators, geometry programs, spreadsheets, and other technologies.

Although some schools embrace technology as a way to reduce costs, the Curry School takes a different approach, Garofalo said. "Our emphasis is on how technology can improve the student's educational experiences. For example, we use technology to enhance mathematics teaching and learning in ways that cannot be done without it. Technology allows us to represent and apply mathematics in ways that are not feasible with only paper and pencil methods."

As center co-directors, Bull and Garofalo work with an interdisciplinary group of U.Va. faculty and graduate fellows to help school districts as well as peer institutions design, implement and assess curricula that integrates technology into teacher education programs.

For more information contact Glen Bull at (804) 924-4617 or gbull@virginia.edu, Joe Garofalo at (804) 924-0845 or jg2e@virginia.edu, or Cheryl Mason at (804) 924-3121 or clm3x@virginia.edu

Contact: Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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