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Doctoral Student Edward Foote Named Tech & Learning Leader of the Year

Doctoral Student Edward Foote Named Tech & Learning Leader of the Year

Edward Foote, a student in the Ed.D. Program in Education Leadership, has been named Leader of the Year by Tech & Learning magazine for his innovative work and use of technology in his teaching. Foote is a special education teacher at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School in the Fairport Central School District.

A profile of Foote appears at Tech Learning.

Sometimes you find the perfect job, and sometimes it finds you.

From Tech & Learning, October 15, 2008 "Once I started working with special needs students, I couldn't leave," says Edward Foote, who teaches fourth and fifth graders at the Jefferson Avenue Elementary School in Fairport, NY. "The challenge of creating the right program to get kids excited about school makes it a great field to work in."

Foote's students, who he teaches in a self-contained classroom and also in inclusion classes with the general student population, have disabilities that range from severe physical and emotional needs to autism. Foote also helped craft the district's elementary technology curriculum and teaches a variety of inservice classes.

His results are impressive: Last year the reading levels of his fourth graders increased more than a grade and a half within one year, and behavioral issues have decreased by over one half.

Now in his sixth year of teaching, Foote says his "aha" moment came when one of his students, a boy who was having trouble writing his name on assignments every week, thrashed him in a video game. "That was when I dove into learning about how technology can meet students' academic needs," he says.

Foote's teaching approach can be summed up thusly: Support students' learning styles and present information in new ways to find the correct method to increase academic achievement, self-image, and social abilities.

He starts by giving interest surveys to every student he works with. "I use the survey to open discussions about what content the students are viewing, to talk about acceptable use and reliability of information, and to use the topics or Web sites they like as positive reinforcement in behavior plans," he says.

One insight Foote gained from the surveys that he might not have otherwise was that students were interested in a foreign language. With that in mind, Foote formed a partnership with a high school Spanish class in New Jersey. The Spanish students created video lessons and then posted them on Foote's Web site. The two-year project, now ended, was mutually beneficial: Foote's students gained linguistic experience, cultural knowledge, and made personal connections with the high school students. The Spanish class was able to practice their coursework and learn how to use video and Web technologies.

Foote regularly places students in the role of teachers. One notable instance of this is the Student Technology Group (STG), in which students use their technology skills to improve aspects of school life. STG's Teacher Support Committee responds to presentation creation and troubleshooting requests, and conducts seminars for teachers on how to use electronic whiteboards, camcorders, and applications such as Skype. The STG uses Google Groups to communicate with each other and with STG "alumni" who serve as informal advisors.

Inside the classroom, Foote sees technology as an indispensable tool for facilitating authentic instruction—from students recording and playing back their own reading to using video to assess eye contact, voice projection, and information delivered. "The key here is that the students are using and seeing that the technology is seamless in the lesson and essential to the end result," he says, adding, "They are so used to using technologies outside of school that we are almost missing what they are capable of if we don't use them in school."

No surprise, then, that Foote is experimenting with video gaming. This year he launched a project using the Nintendo Wii. Once logged on to the game environment, students create a digital avatar, or "Mii," and use this identity to practice word play and learn science concepts, among other activities.

"Overall, I try to bring in cutting-edge technology and research to engage students, give them control and buy-in in their own school lives, improve student learning, and have fun and encourage play," says Foote.