The following article offers several interesting points when discussing the changes being made in our classrooms today because of all of the wonderful technology that is now available for schools. Of course I also really found the article awesome because it points out that an advanced math teacher in an Alabama middle school has had great success with the eBeam Engage (I’ve highlighted this section in the article below).
I guess what I believe to be the most important aspect of technology in the classroom is that it’s only truly helpful if both the teacher and the students are benefiting from its use in the classroom. In the article, it’s noted that Melissa Dodd with the Boston Public School District stated, “We’ve seen increased student engagement, a decrease in disciplinary issues and improved class attendance when the teachers utilize technology within the curriculum.” That to me is true success in the classroom, resulting in happier teachers, students, and parents.
I found the following article at http://www.peterli.com/spm/archive.php?article_id=3438.
The Technology Makeover
Technology for Teachers and Students
For students these additions to their classrooms are just part of their natural realm. Many children already use technology at home. Why shouldn’t they have the same offerings in their schools? Many experts agree that traditional methods of teaching, which have been used for decades, don’t cater to today’s students and their needs nor do they engage young minds. Students aren’t responsive to the traditional approach of sitting behind desks, listening to teachers lecture to them for hours on end and studying from old-fashioned textbooks.The teaching staff has to have the support it needs to ensure that students can reach their potential. The Boston Public School District in Boston, Mass., consists of 125 schools serving 56,000 students. Melissa Dodd, CIO for the district, says, “A teacher today needs a strong toolkit at his or her disposal to engage students. A one size fits all model isn’t working. We needed to change the way we think and teach our children. The district has a very robust network in place, and we have the system to support that.”In 2008, Boston’s public schools launched a “Laptops for Learning” program. Every classroom teacher has been provided with a laptop for instructional use. However, that isn’t where the program ends. Dodd adds, “For teaching to truly evolve, the teachers need the proper tools to prepare students for college careers and life in general. So, we’ve provided our teachers with that technology proficiency. The laptop program gives the teaching staff the training and support necessary to utilize technology to the maximum.”
Rock Quarry Middle School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., educates approximately 600 students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades and has instituted various technologies into each classroom. Jason Burd, an advanced math teacher at the school, has found that the eBeam Engage, a portable, interactive whiteboard from Luidia, makes classroom learning easy and convenient.
“Whatever I write on the Engage is available to the students at any time via the web,” Burd says. “If a student misses details from the lesson, he or she can go back to it at another time to review the material, even if it’s a month later when an exam is coming up.” The ability for students to review material after hours and at their own convenience — for example, when a student has been out sick for a week and has to catch up with the lesson — enables teachers to spend more time teaching and less time reviewing material. In this way, kids who might have a hard time grasping a lesson the first time around have the ability to review it repeatedly at their own pace, making it more likely that that they will understand the concept.
The Fort Leavenworth School District in Kansas is attended by students in grades K-9 who are dependents of soldiers assigned to the military post at Fort Leavenworth. The district has used various technologies to foster the learning environment. Mindy Tilley, a learning technology integration specialist for the district, involved the students in Digital Learning Day, a national event that let teachers revolve their lessons on the technologies that they had within the classroom. “Some lessons focused on allowing students to build avatars. Other classes spent the school day creating movies. The curriculum was still the focus here, as our students utilized creative writing and metric conversion, but the kids spent the day implementing technology into it,” Tilley explains.
Smartboards have been used in every classroom in Fort Leavenworth’s schools for years, and are now being replaced with Epson BrightLink interactive projectors to encourage a more cohesive learning environment. New sound systems have also proved a valuable addition to the classroom. Teachers wear pendant microphones and their voices are carried throughout the classrooms, ensuring that all the students are able to hear the lessons clearly. “I think the audio system is one of the most critical components in the classroom because it really does make a difference in student learning,” adds Alan Landever, Fort Leavenworth’s director of technology services.
Parents Pull Together to Bring Technology to Fruition
Perhaps the most important aspect to updating technological infrastructures is the one thing that teachers and parents have sought since the beginning of time: getting kids interested in learning. Students take to technology in the classroom much as they would to the latest Angry Birds game on an iPod — they simply love it. Who would imagine that kids would not only like to learn their multiplication tables, but would beg for more? “We use various web apps on iPads to teach our students,” Alan Landever says. “Just one example of this is the Princess Math App for second grade girls that offers drills in addition and subtraction. It gets the girls excited to do math problems.”
“A key focus to the curriculum-driven lessons we provide is getting the students excited about learning,” adds Keith Mispagel, Superintendent of Schools, USD 207, Fort Leavenworth. “With a national focus on science, technology, engineering and math, we are harnessing the creativity and energy the students exhibit in the classroom when activities become hands-on through technology advancements and resources.”
Melissa Dodd agrees with that because the Boston Public School District has noticed benefits, too. “We’ve seen increased student engagement, a decrease in disciplinary issues and improved class attendance when the teachers utilize technology within the curriculum.”
Today’s kids might also be more apt to pick up a Kindle Fire and read a book instead of opening up a hardback. Both Fort Leavenworth School District and Rock Quarry Middle School are considering moving to e-textbooks within the next few years since the costs are cheaper than regular textbooks and kids are more enthusiastic about reading when an e-reader is involved.
The 21st-Century Classroom
The classroom environment won’t ever be the same. The chalkboards will be torn down to make way for advancing technologies that don’t keep a classroom static, but instead ensure that it is constantly evolving. It seemed unlikely that a few years ago Shakespeare might meet the iPad, but in the not too distant future, that might just be the way to get students interested in Macbeth and Othello. And these new methods show students that there’s no lesson that they cannot tackle.
Karen Spring has been a technical writer for more than 10 years. She began her career working as a marketing specialist for two computer distributors, handling projects for clients including Acer, IBM, Okidata. She also worked as a senior editor for an IT publishing and consulting firm. Ms. Spring has written technical reports on Microsoft products and contributes to a weekly newsletter that highlights network and Internet security topics.