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Science and the Environment

Buffalo Teacher Recognized for Use of Technology in the Classroom

Ann Francis-Buffalo Prairie Middle School Special Education teacher and 2014 PBS LearningMedia Innovator - Photo Courtesy of

Ozarks Public Broadcasting has named a local teacher one of only 100 educators nation-wide to the 2014 PBS LearningMedia Innovator's program.  KSMU's Theresa Bettmann has the story.

The program looks across the country for creative and tech-savvy K-12 teachers who display leadership in incorporating digital media content, particularly PBS LearningMedia materials, into their classrooms. PBS LearningMedia is a free media-on-demand service that provides digital curriculum materials aligned with National and Common Core State Standards. 

Ann Francis is a special education teacher at Buffalo Prairie Middle school teaching students in grades 5 through 8. Francis says she has been using technology for some time in her classroom, but really wanted to see how she could build upon new and existing tools.

"Starting in November, I switched from doing worksheets to hands-on projects. For example, if the class was working on the American Revolution when I had them for reading and writing, we would work on the American Revolution also.  But we would do vocabulary preview, point-of-view projects, we would do posters and create movies to show what they know," Francis says.

Francis says she’s excited about the changes she has seen since adding offering technology and choices to her students.  Francis has even created a website, uses Twitter, and a variety of iPad apps to incorporate a number of digital learning methods into her lesson plans. 

"Well I think the change has to start with me first because my expectations are different for them.  I think I expect way, way more out of them, and they're willing if I am ready to do it. But I need to give them different ways.  Some of them are better at typing, some are better at speaking, others are better at getting up and showing.  So I need to be more creative in the ways that I ask them to show me that they know what they're doing," says Francis.

Francis says that helping children find their strengths and identify different ways to demonstrate learning and understanding has really opened the door.  She says the skills they’re developing help to level the playing field.  Francis shares that she has seen students who would not talk before begin to raise their hand and want to present, as they are having fun and developing confidence. 

"We've really switched from a teacher-led classroom to a student-led classroom.  What that means is that I have managers for everything.  I have one [student] who comes in and does the date.  We have ones that come in and take care of supplies.  We have an on-task manager that goes around and checks every 10 minutes that students are on track.  They have clear learning targets of what they're trying to reach and they're in charge of creating their learning target posters once a quarter," says Francis.  

As a PBS Learning Innovator, Francis will take part in year-long professional development opportunities such as virtual trainings and special events. 

Ozarks Public Broadcasting’s Hanna Wingo shares that nationally around 1.4 million teachers have registered to gain access to more than 35,000 digital media resources through PBS LearningMedia. 

"We make PBS LearningMedia available to everybody but then don't necessarily know who's using it or how it's being used.  So this is a great way for us to make a local connection and learn more about what she's doing in her classroom.  Also to leverage that towards helping other people become more aware of what's available to them, and give examples of how it's being incorporated into the classroom," Wingo says.

Francis says that teachers wanting to try out new things need to make just one small change at a time and build from there.  She says it’s amazing how a few small changes begin to translate into bigger ones.  

OPT and KSMU are both part of Ozarks Public Broadcasting. 

For KSMU News, I'm Theresa Bettmann.