November 20, 2003
Since the early 1990s, computer technology has become more than just a passing interest in my life. It has become a medium through which I am able to connect with the world. The Internet has given me a platform to carry out an educational agenda of dissemination of knowledge, cultural exchange, prejudice reduction and intellectual expression. It is with these concepts in mind that I have applied to the Virtual High School Program as a doctoral candidate. By developing higher level skills in the development of Social Studies curricula, in conjunction with the application of cutting-edge computer and Internet technology, I hope to make a difference in improving interpersonal and intercultural understanding on an ever-increasing scale, first with my students and colleagues, and in a broader sense, on the world stage now available through the Internet.
In 1994, I was invited to attend a conference of educators on the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. A few months earlier, I had discovered the joys of telecommunications and computing. At the conference, I witnessed a demonstration of what was then the new-born World Wide Web as well as how it could be used in the classroom. From then on, I was inspired to bring the Internet into my teaching and the learning process of my students. Through slow but consistent steps, I obtained computers and Internet access for little or no cost and integrated these new technologies into my teaching. I had the opportunity to implement an intranet within my classroom as my students built one of the first K-12 websites in the state of Maryland. The website received consistent media attention because it was obvious that a quiet revolution was taking place within my classroom. Students started by e-mailing essays to willing reviewers all over the globe. These essays became the nucleus of the school’s website. Projects such as the African-American History Month Prejudice Reduction website, the Help Fight Hate Clearinghouse, and the Interactive Atlas of Western Maryland gained notoriety for the students and awards for the North Hagerstown High School. In 1998, the Maryland Instructional Coordinators’ Association (MICAA) chose me as Maryland’s Computer Educator of the Year.
In 2000, I came to Loudoun County, Virginia, a school district with a strong technological base within its economy. New challenges lay before me as an educator.
Technological innovations as web page design, graphics development, the creation of Macromedia Flash and PowerPoint presentations, as well as video editing have a place in social studies education. The disciplines of History and Civics can be made exciting, interactive, and interesting by incorporating these technologies into their respective curricula. The teacher and learner gain skills on a two-fold level: not just in the disciplinary field itself, but also in the fluency with which the technological medium is used and applied. Moreover, by working with colleagues who have already developed cutting-edge on-line curricula, I hope to take on a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. The graduate program at George Mason University will allow me to engage in intellectual exchange with my professional peers on three levels: subject content, curriculum and instruction, and technical. As we work together to build the Virtual High School, I will also be gaining valuable interpersonal and cooperative skills that I will need to model for my own students as cooperative learning becomes increasingly important in today’s secondary classroom.
As a master's candidate in the area of curriculum and instruction, I hope to explore the power of the Internet and related technologies as media for cultural exchange, prejudice reduction, and the dissemination of democratic ideals. The role the Internet has to play in political socialization on a positive level for students is closely related to the development of adolescent attitudes towards cultures and systems not their own. To make students more aware of their world is a primary goal for social studies teachers, and this one hopes to use existing and future technology in the construction of mutual understanding and respect among all classes, societies, and cultures.