The internet: for some, it’s a form of entertainment; for others, a source of disdain. But in education our very connected world has given teachers and students alike new platforms to wonder, discover, and ultimately learn.
“The world these kids will go into … is very hooked into technology, and that’s what we do here,” said Hillsboro Superintendent Jim Smith.
SMART boards, he said, have replaced chalkboards and whiteboards in “practically every classroom.”
Smith said SMART boards are “like having a computer built into a white board.” He described them as “very handy.”
SMART boards are “the primary way our teachers teach,” Smith said, adding that, while “they’re not cheap,” they come with “limitless resources” through the Internet.
SMART boards, he said, can also be written on.
Testing, he said, will continue to be done online. He said Hillsboro City Schools utilized their supply of Chromebooks last year during testing.
This year, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests were replaced with American Institutes for Research (AIR) tests. Smith said AIR will again be online.
“I think our kids got pretty used to that last year,” he added.
Smith also said that technology plays a significant role, not only in the classroom, but also in administrative operations.
In addition, technology is another way for parents to connect with teachers as they can access their students’ grades and other classroom information through online platforms.
Becky Sanderson, technology director at Fairfield Local Schools, also said, “We rely on (technology) in so many more areas, from classroom management to student learning.”
Like Smith, Sanderson said SMART boards have become a common part of local classrooms. Within the last five years, she said, Fairfield has become “saturated” with SMART boards.
However, education in the digital age does not stop at SMART boards. Sanderson said students can use their phones and other mobile devices in the classroom to help with lessons. She added that the school also provides iPads and laptops.
Such web-based teaching, Sanderson said, can “individualize student learning.”
She added that while technology comes with many advantages, it remains just one part of the educational system.
“It should never drive the curriculum, but it can support the curriculum in so many ways,” Sanderson said.
She added that as new technologies have emerged, others have become obsolete such as typewriters, overhead projectors, and film strips.
And these advances, she added, parallel the world students will eventually enter as adults. “I think any college or career exploration is going to require a working knowledge of technology,” she said.
Calls to Lynchburg-Clay Middle School Principal Casey T. Smith seeking information for this story were not returned.
At Greenfield Elementary, principal Bob Schumm said that technology plays a strong role in many classrooms, where teachers use iPads as a part of the curriculum. He said that the iPads were purchased through grants and local sponsors.
Schumm listed numerous programs that utilize iPads, such as RAZ Kids, which allows students to read on their level and then take quizzes. Another teacher uses iPads to practice cursive writing, and another to practice multiplication and division.
He also said Greenfield Elementary has added a computer lab class to its rotating specials. During that time students learn computer skills and keyboarding.
Schumm added that some fourth-graders have reached up to 25 words a minute while typing.
In addition, Schumm said classrooms utilize Promethean boards, a different brand of SMART board technology.
One of their many benefits, he said, is the chance for students to go on “virtual field trips.”
Overall, Schumm said technology is “hugely important” to a child’s education.
He commented on “how things have changed,” saying that Greenfield Elementary began using the online MAPS system to assess and track students. He also discussed the online AIR tests and said that Greenfield Elementary “has become a Google docs building” for staff.
Schumm added that early in his principal career computers in each classroom had learning game software. While useful, Schumm said those were limited.
Now, he said, students “don’t just practice skills, they learn skills” on the computer.
Greenfield’s technology department, he added, is “very, very strong.”
Also, Schumm said numerous websites allow for “lots of sharing among teachers.”
And while he said that added technology comes with “mostly pros,” one disadvantage may be that some students may not have access to all technologies.
“Most have some kind of device at home,” he said, but those who do not are given opportunities to do the work at school.
Whiteoak Junior/Senior High School Principal Michael Roades also said that while technology comes with few drawbacks there are some obstacles that educators face.
Among those are “inappropriate searches,” that students may come across while online. He added that blocking such websites is a “daily job.”
Another challenge, he said, is technology’s rapid advancements. “Everything’s obsolete within six months,” he said, adding that schools work to meet the constant upgrades.
He also discussed the use of SMART boards, citing a history teacher who uses one to bring up historical documents.
Technology is also used in student presentations, such as through PowerPoints.
Giving students the opportunity to interact with technology, he added, is “extremely important and becoming more and more so.”
“I think today’s society is very driven by technology,” he said, citing online classes as an example of the role it will play in students’ futures.
The biggest change Roades said he has noticed in technology is its mobility. “Technology is not just for the desk anymore.” He added that many students bring mobile devices to use during class.
And, in the Bright Local School District, Roades added that virtual textbooks are being considered. “It’s something that we’re talking about,” he said.
Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.