How might a local high school make use of a flying, camera-bearing quadcopter? Could Skype offer a novel way for students to connect with books? What kind of connections could be made between Duke students and an elementary school technology club?
Tackling these questions is all in a day’s work for David Stein, the Duke PepsiCo K-12 Technology Mentor. David recently assumed the role after 14 years as Duke’s Senior Education Partnership Coordinator, focusing on the eight public schools within the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership. Now he’s helping schools across the district make the most of technology, and he’s clearly loving every minute of it.
“I get a thrill out of watching students engage with technology,” David says. “I remember handing a phone-sized Flip video camera to a student, who promptly tucked it partway into his sock and filmed a walk down a trail. He literally and figuratively gave us a brand new perspective — we learn as much from students as they do from us.”
On a recent visit to Durham School of the Arts(DSA), David brought along Duke senior Hans Lie-Nielsen, who has experience with environmental mapping, video production and quadcopters. David had learned about school media centers that were checking out quadcopters for use in research projects, and he pulled together a group at DSA to brainstorm.
For the school’s secondary science teachers, the possibilities included monitoring tree canopy changes in the seasons and computing plant growth. The arts and humanities teachers envisioned how a quadcopter and real-time video camera could examine a landscape or object from many different angles for 3D art. Staff thought a quadcopter could even help with maintenance issues, through routine flyovers to inspect roof conditions.
Right after the DSA visit, David was on a conference call with Durham Public Schools and UNC-Greensboro library staff to investigate how their North Carolina Literary Map might be expanded using school media assistants and GIS mapping technology.
The next day, David was at Lakewood Elementary School. He met with the new media center coordinator, Debbie Darwin, to share resources like the free Skyping with authors and Teacher Reads programs. Through Teacher Reads, teachers are filmed reading their favorite books, and the compiled DVDs — and actual books — are sent home for students and their families.
Later that week, David met with E.K. Powe Elementary School assistant principal Susan Wells and Duke student Claire Alexandre. They reviewed the details for a short course on Stop Motion Animation they would offer the school’s after-school technology club.
“What’s really encouraging is that this work helps teachers and principals dream about what might be possible,” David says. “Not everything will work out, but in the midst of their hectic day-to-day, having this space to dream and to try helps them renew their energy and become great educators.”
The technology program is the result of a partnership between Duke University Libraries and Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs. It’s made possible by an endowment created by PepsiCo.