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Southern California Teachers Bringing Multimedia Technology Developed at San Diego Supercomputer Center to their Classrooms

Published 09/02/2003

Many San Diego-area children now returning to school will benefit from new multimedia technology developed by teachers who attended a summer 2003 computer-technology training camp at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) on the campus of UC San Diego. Twelve elementary, middle school, and high school teachers who work in Borrego Springs, Encinitas, San Diego, San Dieguito Escondido, and San Marcos schools attended the two-week training course in August called TeacherTECH. The projects developed by the teachers include a highly interactive math tutorial for third-graders, a "Mummies for Dummies" social sciences project for sixth graders studying Ancient World History, and a video-game-style Earth Sciences lesson for high school students that is packed with facts, images, and quizzes. (The projects can be found at

Attendees at summer 2003 TeacherTECH at the San Diego Supercomputer Center included (left to right): William Smith, a teacher at Christian Junior/Senior High School; Hiram Gonzalez, a teacher at Standley Middle School; Angel Vongketmany, a TeacherTECH teaching assistant and junior at Preuss School UCSD; James Patzold, a teacher at Clairemont High School in San Diego; Yi Ren, a student at Standley Middle School in San Diego; Michael Senise, a TeacherTECH instructor and teacher at Standley Middle School; Anne Bogardt, a teacher at Borrego Springs High School; Wesley Hawkins, a student at Standley Middle School; Don Truett, a teacher at Rock Springs Elementary School in Escondido; Cheryl Call, a teacher at Rock Springs Elementary School; Matt Rhoades, a Valencia Park Center for Academics, Drama, and Dance in San Diego; Jorge Valdivieso, a teacher at San Marcos High School; Mary Laiuppa, a teacher at Monroe Clark Middle School in San Diego; Debra McQuillan, a teacher at Marshall Middle School in San Diego; Marcos Leon, a TeacherTECH teaching assistant and junior at Preuss School UCSD; Leslie Gushwa, a teacher at San Dieguito High School Academy in Encinitas; Anne Bowen, a TeacherTECH instructor in the SDSC Educational Technology Laboratory; Jason Wiskerchen, a TeacherTECH instructor in the SDSC Educational Technology Laboratory; Ryn Schaufus, a TeacherTECH teaching assistant and senior at Preuss School UCSD.

Schools across California and the nation are eager to use multimedia content as a way to engage increasingly computer-savvy students. "We use technology in lots of exciting ways at our elementary school, which is ripe for our teachers to try new things like this," said Leila Sackfield, principal of Rock Springs Elementary School in Escondido. "I saw the excitement in one of our teacher's eyes after his experience this summer at TeacherTECH. He is thrilled about bringing the interactive technology he learned at the camp into the classroom."

Don Truett, a third grade teacher at Rock Springs Elementary School, created a multimedia tutorial at TeacherTECH that is designed to help students master "number rounding," a math skill that sometimes eludes college graduates. (For example, the number 16 rounded off to the tens place is 20, and 187 rounded off to the hundreds place is 200.) In Truett's program, students seated before computers take multiple-choice quizzes, which get progressively more difficult, by clicking a mouse. At the point where they encounter difficulties, the program takes them to a tutorial with graphics highlighting each rule of rounding, followed by a practice page. The results of a final exam are automatically reported to their teacher to review.

"All the third grade teachers I've talked to said how difficult that rounding is to understand, and even high school teachers said many of their students have trouble mastering it," said Truett. He said even elementary students from homes without a computer respond enthusiastically to assignments completed on school computers. "It's a little TV screen, and they are used to watching TV," said Truett, "but this is a lot more interactive that TV." He plans to install his tutorial on Rock Springs' central computer server so that all students in the school would have access to it.

Rozeanne Steckler, director of SDSC's Education Department, organized the first San Diego TeacherTECH in 2001 based on a similar program at Rice University in Houston, Texas. TeacherTECH also hosted a one-week computer-basics course in July, which was attended by 16 elementary, middle school, and high school teachers from southern California. "All of these teachers were very determined to be more effective in their classrooms while also providing much more engaging learning experiences," said Anne Bowen, a TeacherTECH instructor in the SDSC Educational Technology Laboratory.

The TeacherTECH program at SDSC is supported by the Education, Outreach, and Training Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (EOT-PACI). The program was formed in 1998 with a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop human resources across a broad range of science disciplines through the innovative use of emerging information technologies.

Hiram Gonzalez, who teaches Social Studies to sixth graders and World History to seventh graders at Standley Middle School in San Diego, developed a "Mummies for Dummies" project for his Social Studies class at TeacherTECH. The computer project challenges students to write a five-chapter book on Egyptian mummies. "Last year, I presented this project as a one-page written task list, so I am very interested to see how the students' results will differ this year," said Gonzalez. He said he and his fellow teachers take advantage of multimedia teaching resources when they are available, because students are more enthusiastic about such media. "None of the kids want a teacher who sits at the front of the class and just talks for an hour," said Gonzalez. "Once I get permission to use a couple copyrighted images, I would like to make Mummies for Dummies available to other teachers, because we teachers need to integrate technology to keep pace with what is happening outside of our classrooms."

Leslie Gushwa, a San Diego County Teacher of the Year in 1998 who is an accomplished Web page designer, said she had an idea for an "Astronomy Laboratory" tutorial, but didn't know how to create it. TeacherTECH instructors guided Gushwa through the programming steps required to implement her idea. "I went home exhausted every day for the two weeks, but I felt engaged, inspired, and motivated" said Gushwa, who will teach two courses, Earth Sciences and Biology, at San Dieguito High School Academy in Encinitas.

TeacherTECH was taught by Bowen and other multimedia experts in SDSC's Education Technology Laboratory, Michael Senise, a teacher at Standley Middle School, took the TeacherTECH course two years ago, and three students from the Preuss School UCSD who have mastered the technology in courses taught at the school by SDSC instructors.

At last year's TeacherTECH, John Barta, a math specialist at Balboa Elementary School in San Diego, created a multimedia math project that won a $100 award of merit at the 2003 "SIGKids" competition. The recognition was held as part of SIGGRAPH, the annual national graphics convention. Barta's Web-based game called "Bowling with Numbers," generates sets of three random numbers, which students then use in mathematical expressions they write themselves. Correct answers are rewarded by pins being knocked down in a bowling game when students' hit a "Knock 'em Down!" button to check their answers. (Barta's game can be found at

"The SIGKids award shows that in a two-week course, we can give skills to teachers who otherwise know very little about information technology," said SDSC's Steckler. "And these skills can enable teachers to develop award-winning pieces of curriculum."

For more, see SDSC Education Department (

Media Contact:
Greg Lund
San Diego Supercomputer Center