Today, schools have access to more technology than ever but many teachers entered their schools before such technologies were available. TeachUp! wanted to address this issue taking advantage of the large donations of technology the local schools received in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
TeachUp! recruits interns, usually recent graduates, and trains them in the use of interactive whiteboards, projectors, computers and software. The intern is then placed in a school that is deemed best suited to their character and they are partnered with teachers within that school. The intern trains the teachers to use the technology and guides them in planning the interactive aspects of their classes.
While the interns do not teach the children directly, they spend 30 hours of the week in the classes helping the children to better understand the technology.
TeachUp! is a program that benefits all those involved. The students are not only better prepared for their future studies and careers in a world increasingly dependent on technology, but they are given more freedom within the classroom. They are able to plan their projects, such as posters and digital storybooks, in groups and then move directly to creating them on the computers.
While teachers are occasionally hesitant at first, they very quickly see the advantages to the changes to their routine. The children are motivated by the chance to use the technology and the teachers notice the alteration in behavior and self-discipline from their students. It also gives the teacher the chance to help those students who need more attention while the rest of the class is engaged in their self-guided projects.
Teachers themselves enjoy the technology and the creativity it can add to their lessons, and are quick to notice its absence if ever it is unavailable.
Communication Support Manager, Ginny Sims highlights the effect that it the program has on the teachers, saying that one teacher a year from retirement decided to extend her contract with the school after being inspired by the new addition to her classroom.
The interns become a support system for the teacher, encouraging them to make the most of the new technologies at their fingertips, but they also have another effect in the class. They act as role models for the students who see the results that come from working hard at school, and TeachUp! organizers are often asked by the children when they themselves can become interns.
Ginny explains that "the goal in the program is to lay a foundation of technology knowledge with the teachers and then the teachers can spread that to other teachers and to new teachers coming in so soon the school is able to do it on their own." The technology that these teachers and students learn now will benefit them all for the rest of their lives.
The effects of TeachUp! are clearly visible in the classroom. The students are excited to be using the new technology that gives them freedom to work independently and creatively. They are proud of the posters they produce, the slideshows they create, and for the younger students, they enjoy being part of class tests that use the handheld clickers.