Ben Spieldenner January 2012

Ben has taught English at Ashland High School for six years, although his teaching career spans ten years. His philosophy of technology is that teachers should use technology to get a foot in the door. “In the era of earbuds, iPhones, and social networking, we need to have a way to reach our students…technology is how they think and connect, we need to use this.”

How does he use this technology? Video is one avenue that Ben uses to bridge this gap. In his Writing Workshop course, Ben uses movie trailers to illustrate the importance of writing an introduction. Through websites such as Trailer Addict, Ben has students watch various movie trailers then analyze why the director chose certain clips to include. This idea of “hooking the audience,” getting them interested, then translates to writing an introduction to a narrative or other type of essay. Ben also uses video for reviews and projects. TeacherTube currently houses several Romeo and Juliet review videos, created using Windows Movie Maker and JayCut (a free video editing website), in which Ben is acting out all of the parts in each scene. There are also a few projects posted there from students that were created for a Marketing Campaign Project in his Persuasive Communication course. 
Another type of technology that Ben is particularly interested in is FREE technology. “The great thing about free technology is that it is usually in a beta format, which means the designers are more than willing to chat with you about how to make it better,” claims Ben. One example of this is Remind101, a free website used to communicate via text messages. Students sign up using their cell phones or email and teachers then post messages from a secure online site that is sent to all students signed up for that class. Ben uses Remind101 for all of his classes to remind them of homework assignments, upcoming projects, or even class readings. He also uses it as Stage Director for the Ashland High School musical, as a reminder about scheduling or other items. Another example of this free technology is Poll Everywhere, a free online poll creator that once again utilizes cell phones. Ben thinks, “If students have $400 computers in their hand in the form of a cell phone, why not use it? At least teach students how to use this technology responsibly.” With the permission of the administration, Ben has students respond to questions posted on Poll Everywhere. Sometimes he does this as a bell-ringer, other times as an exit slip for the class. 
Besides using technology for his own classroom, he dabbles in creating things accessible to the entire building, district and community. This past year Ben created a new English department website for Ashland High School, containing an entire course list with descriptions. He also created a comprehensive online binder for the new Common Core Standards for grades nine through twelve. Lastly, this year Ben, with the help of the administration and the district technology coordinator Philip McNaull, created a close circuit electronic message board. This project was a “labor of love” as he started with a simple PowerPoint message board and recently graduated to a Carousel message board.

 What is the next big project? “I am in the process of creating the first online course for Ashland High School. Hopefully, it will be piloted this summer. I would also like to figure out more ways to use mobile technology in the classroom.”