Technology thrives in districtWORTHINGTON — With the kickoff of American Education Week on Monday, district 518 is joined districts across the nation in celebrating their education — and the new technology that comes with it.
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — With the kickoff of American Education Week on Monday, district 518 is joined districts across the nation in celebrating their education — and the new technology that comes with it.
Teachers in the district say today’s tech-savvy students enjoy learning tools that mimic the gadgets they use outside of school.
Even kindergarteners are getting in on the fun, using iPod touches to learn the basics.
“They have different (applications) on them that work on anything from fine motor skills, the formation of letters, the sounds of letters, shapes, colors, numbers, counting and memory skills,” detailed Cayleen Mackey, a kindergarten teacher at Prairie Elementary. “We also use it for a lot of songs that we sing instead of having to deal with CDs.”
Students take turns using the classroom’s iPods; each day a different group of six students focuses on a predetermined activity for about 15 minutes.
“The kids really seem to like them; it’s always one of their favorite things,” Mackey said. She said learning the technology has been pretty easy for her and her fellow teachers, too.
“It has been great. The kids are entertained by it,” said Becky Duehn, who teaches one of the English as a Second Language kindergarten classes. “They don’t always see it as a learning tool; they just see it as a toy sometimes.”
Duehn uses her iPods for teaching students how to write letters, learn sounds and develop their English vocabulary.
Prairie music teacher Jeanette Jenson is also enthusiastic about the new technology’s potential. In her first-, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes, she uses the iPod touches to quiz students about note theory. One application shows students a note on the staff and requires them to select the corresponding letter.
Jenson has also downloaded applications for auxiliary percussion, guitar, ukulele, even the harp with on-screen strings.
“It is quite sensitive to the touch. The kids have actually figured it out; you can use several fingers simultaneously,” she said. “That’s really fun. … I’ll have four people on the digital auto harp and one on the analog harp.”
It has also helped her manage music selections for each class.
“All of my music I teach is on here, and when you’re teaching different grades it’s nice to have it separate by category,” Jenson continued. “I can download any kind of music from the iTunes store. If I punch in ‘Beethoven,’ it gives me so many examples of things to listen to. It’s just such a great tool.”
Now in the second year of a two-year implementation plan, there are also 108 smart classrooms districtwide, reported Amy Ernst, the district technology director.
The classrooms have SMART Boards, interactive boards that allow students to draw, write, select answers or navigate the Internet by touching what resembles a regular whiteboard.
“The kids like it because it’s what they’re used to,” Ernst said. And barring any technical difficulties, the teachers like them, too.
About 15 classrooms that do not have a SMART board use an AirLiner, touch-sensitive, wireless slate that allows teachers and students to project whatever they write onto a projector.
Emerging technologies won’t replace the role of a teacher, Jenson said, but they are still nice to have.
“Every year (technology) seems to do a 360. It’s hard to keep up with,” she said. “But once you learn to use them, it’s hard to live without.”