Ask teachers what they need to improve their students' experiences in the classroom, and you'll find that time and online resources top their list. However, despite best efforts, teachers say they find that combing the Web for relevant, quality resources can be burdensome and time-consuming.
Help is now readily available for the K-12 education community and families with the debut of a new Web site called Thinkport, developed through a partnership between Maryland Public Television and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education, a program of SBPSBE's Graduate Division of Education. The web site, http://www.thinkport.org, provides free multimedia resources for the classroom, online professional development, innovative technology tools and a place for educational exchange between educators and families.
The creation of this extensive digital platform is the product of two years of research and close collaboration between the partner organizations and key education groups and experts from across the state. CTE and MPT also worked closely with a statewide team of teachers and principals to develop and write instructionally sound content for the site and to assess the effect of this instruction on student outcomes.
Jacqueline Nunn, director of CTE, describes Thinkport as a rich resource that delivers what teachers have requested. "Teachers have told us that they would like a Web site that saves them time by offering instructional resources of consistently high quality that are engaging to students; lesson plans and projects that are aligned to state standards and tailored to grade level and content area; professional development focused on technology-integrated instruction; and finally, teachers would appreciate a mechanism for communicating with parents easily. It's a tall order, but Thinkport meets all of those needs."
Thinkport was launched on March 20 at MICCA 2003, an annual conference on teaching with technology, which was held at the Baltimore Convention Center. Nina Rees, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement, said, "The launch of this exciting new portal shows what can happen when a state partners with its media outlets and universities to forge a common alliance to better serve the children of that state. Thinkport is a tool that will make it easier for states to align classroom instruction with state standards--one of the key goals of [the] No Child Left Behind [Act of 2001]. We hope other states will look to Thinkport as a model in years to come."
More than 2,000 Maryland teachers, technology coordinators and administrators were on hand to get a virtual tour highlighting the four main areas of the Thinkport site:
* Think Classroom, which houses a rich collection of standards-based lesson plans, projects and student activities, video clips and online field trips.
* Think Career, which provides continual professional development opportunities, including online courses.
* Think Technology, which keeps teachers up-to-date on the rapidly evolving world of educational technology through sharing "what works."
* Think Family & Community, which serves as a gateway between school and home, extending communication and learning.
Thinkport also provides a free set of innovative tools designed to enhance the site's value and usefulness to each registered user, including:
* My Idea Box, a personal space on the site where users can save, access and share files from anywhere.
* Classroom Web Site Builder, a simple way to build a dynamic communication link between the classroom and home.
* Activity, Lesson and Project Builders, a tool to create thorough instructional plans that are aligned with the Maryland Content Standards and incorporate interactive media with sound instructional practices.
* Member Directory and instant Member Messaging.
Following a recent presentation of Thinkport to the Maryland State Board of Education, state superintendent of schools Nancy S. Grasmick said, "It is evident that with its online collection of rich resources, Thinkport will be of critical assistance to teachers and parents as Maryland moves forward to eliminate the achievement gap and reach new standards of excellence."
Gail Porter Long, vice president and chief education officer of Maryland Public Television, emphasized that the resources found on Thinkport today are just the beginning. "We have produced a cutting-edge Internet delivery platform that will grow with the evolving needs of education," she said. "We will continuously add and develop exciting, new multimedia resources to help students and their teachers thrive in today's digital classroom."
Thinkport is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Star Schools Program.