Making a Difference:
KET EncycloMedia

KET EncycloMedia has greatly enabled my instruction—it has opened up so much stuff to my kids, and to me, that I can broaden out my instruction. I can reach more kids, and that’s the whole goal of education.

Chris Renfrow

history teacher, Daviess County High School

Walking the halls of Daviess County High School, things look a bit different. Students carry backpacks, yes, and there’s the usual assortment of fashionistas and free spirits, jocks and brains, and everyone in between.

But look a little closer and you’ll see they’ve all got something in common: slung over each shoulder is none other than a laptop computer; overhead there are wireless routers mounted along hallways throughout the Western Kentucky school.

And step into Chris Renfrow’s U.S. history class and you’ll get an even bigger eyeful: this type of now-familiar technology is being fully employed to take instruction from the chalkboard into the 21st century.

“There are so many things that are available to teachers today,” said Renfrow, who’s been in the classroom just eight years, yet has witnessed in that time a technological revolution. “I’d hate to go back to the old chalkboard and chalk way of teaching. Those ways seem to be almost obsolete.”

These revolutions make Daviess County public schools special—so special, in fact, that they’ve been singled out for national recognition. Among systems with between 2,500 and 15,000 students, Daviess ranks seventh nationally in instructional technology use.

And integral to that designation was the system’s use of KET EncycloMedia.

“KET EncycloMedia has greatly enabled my instruction—it has opened up so much stuff to my kids, and to me, that I can broaden out my instruction,” Renfrow said. ”I can reach more kids, and that’s the whole goal of education.”

KET EncycloMedia is an extensive online tool which KET and the Kentucky Department of Education provide free to all Kentucky public schools. With it, teachers can choose from among hundreds of photographs, videos, lesson plans, and other instructional aids that are infinitely adaptable to each teacher’s style of presentation—and to his or her students’ preferred learning styles.

Each day Renfrow roams about his classroom, in one hand, a wireless mouse connected to his own laptop at the front of the room.

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In the darkened classroom, students sit facing the back, where his multi-media presentation on World War II, for example, is being projected onto the wall. Using the mouse, he can quickly shuttle between PowerPoint slides, photos, and videos while checking on his students’ comprehension and attentiveness—or even email them all links to a site to save on their own machines.

“It’s a great way to teach,” he said. “One thing I love to use is PowerPoint, with the supplement of KET EncycloMedia. I use America in the 20th Century, and pick and choose which segments I want.”

Frequently, Renfrow will couple on-screen notes with a portion of video, most recently of World War II-era leaders delivering a speech. Afterward, the class discussed what they’d heard.

“It was great,” he said, “and the kids really got into it. They could see it. Some kids can get it by hearing you talk about it. Other kids can get it by doing it. Some kids just need to see it; they’re very visual. KET EncycloMedia provides the ability to do that.”

One feature Renfrow finds attractive as a teacher is that KET EncycloMedia is searchable by core content, so he can match his instruction with available KET EncycloMedia resources.

Veteran teachers, too, have embraced KET EncycloMedia, Renfrow says. When he conducts professional development seminars during the summer for teachers throughout Daviess County, they eagerly devour the resources because, he said, there is material on KET EncycloMedia for every subject area.

“At first they’re hesitant,” he said, “but after a while they’re like, ‘How’d you do this, how’d you do that?’ It only takes a few minutes before they see the potential and the capabilities.”

KET EncycloMedia fits nicely into the other technology Daviess County High uses, like textbooks downloaded to those laptops. With KET Encyclomedia though, Renfrow’s job is even easier: With it, he can find appropriate illustrations to what he’s teaching, which wouldn’t always be possible if he had to resort to roaming the Internet. And the students like being able to use in school something that, quite frankly, has become a part of their daily lives.

“In the past they might have been turned off, saying, ‘That’s boring, that’s history stuff, why do you need to learn that?’” he said.

“But with KET EncycloMedia they can see something about Nazi Germany and they’ll say, ‘That’s interesting. Did that really happen?’ And you can hook them. And from that, you can say, ‘Yeah, that happened’ and tell them the history behind it, or tell them, ‘This is why we study it because it could happen again.’

“And I can do it all right here,” he adds, “right in my classroom.”