A Special Classroom Visit

kennfreeman3     Kenn Freeman is in the midst of developing a grass-roots STEM program at Spencer Technology Academy in Chicago. Recently, he and his students had some very special visitors. Guests included the FCC Commissioner, the CIO of Information Technology, and Deputy Chief of Teaching and Learning for Chicago Public Schools. These visitors came to Mr. Freeman’s classroom to discuss the use of technology systems and services in educational environments, specifically in urban schools. This visit was sparked by the renewal debate of the E-Rate program. This program was created to support the funding for upgrading and maintaining technology infrastructures in urban schools. E-Rate monies have helped school districts pay for the installations of wired/wireless internet, telephone systems, and high speed connectivity. Freeman says, “Historically, grants and donated funds have provided money to purchase technology equipment but the “decision makers” responsible for this never think about the fact that these items become obsolete after 3 or 4 years.” Congress is hesitating on renewing the federal E-Rate program, while Kenn Freeman is stressing the need for continued funding.

Government funding is critical in Mr. Freeman’s year long, multi-tiered DreamIT project, which is in progress. His project focuses on encouraging African Americans to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) educational fields. His goal is to expose  6th – 8th graders to these disciplines at a younger age.  This year, he is specifically focusing  on implementing a new and innovative approach to teaching mathematics that is richly enhanced by the use of mobile devices and online systems. He hopes this exposure will lead his students to select high schools that focus on STEM disciplines which foster matriculation to colleges that provide advanced training for STEM careers. During the visit, Mr. Freeman expressed the importance of not only acquiring computers and mobile devices that support student learning, but also the necessity for funds to continuously update and/or replace these devices as their capabilities become obsolete. He is hoping his voice makes a difference.

Check out Freeman’s DREAM IT Video Trailer: Spencer STEM Initiative. Read a more detailed plan of his vision here.

His students had a voice too! Following the visit, several of Mr. Freeman’s students sat in on a round-table discussion. The students highlighted how tablets and online reading/math curricula has enhanced their learning.