Column: District 518 using 21st century technology

WORTHINGTON -- We live in a techno-drenched environment with cell phones, iPods, laptops, video games, instant messaging, surfing, blogging and online communities at our disposal at virtual all times. Students are used to this multisensory stimul...

WORTHINGTON -- We live in a techno-drenched environment with cell phones, iPods, laptops, video games, instant messaging, surfing, blogging and online communities at our disposal at virtual all times. Students are used to this multisensory stimulation and multitasking. Their techno-wired brains do not always process information in the same way as their parents and grandparents do. Schools are faced with the challenge of teaching these learners.

Integrating technology into the curriculum and into everyday instruction can transform the way information is being presented to students and assist teachers in meeting the needs of today's learners. Computers have been a part of every classroom in the school district for quite a few years. Today, we move past just the computer and look at other forms of technology that will assist teachers in actively engaging students in the learning process. Some of these technologies used in conjunction with the computer can be found in the Worthington classrooms and include digital projectors, SMARTBoards and Classroom Response Systems (clickers).

A SMARTBoard is an interactive digital whiteboard. This is a content delivery platform, allowing teachers to deliver interactive, multimedia content and have access to the whole world at the tip of their finger. The teachers who currently have this technology in their classroom are excited about how they are now able to reach more students. A third-grade teacher said, "Now that I have had the opportunity to use a SMARTBoard in my classroom, I truly cannot imagine teaching without it. My students are more engaged and involved. The Smart Board allows me to meet all learning styles and to differentiate instruction at the touch of a screen. I have access to unlimited resources to enhance my current curriculum. My students also have access to information we would not have without the SMARTBoard. We can interact with a real human body, pinpoint a live picture of our location, manipulate graphs, make reading characters come alive and meet authors face to face. Most importantly, the SMARTBoard makes all my students feel successful. Students who may have trouble writing can use symbols. Students who may have trouble comprehending print can use the sound features. In short, students who once did not participate in lessons not only now do participate, they cannot wait to."

A title teacher at the elementary school who uses the technology goes on to state, "Technology has made a wonderful difference in my classroom. My job is so much easier, and my students are more engaged in learning. I honestly don't think I could teach anymore without my SMARTBoard. Many times, my students struggle in their class because they don't learn the same way others learn. They need to move, see or feel to understand. I have an unlimited amount of manipulatives to help title students learn. Without the SMARTBoard, I am limited only by the materials that I have in my possession. Now I have the entire world at my fingertip. Using the SMARTBoard is also a wonderful tool to stay organized. I don't have transparency manipulatives to get out, nor do I spend any time cleaning transparency sheets. My prep time is spent identifying the needs of my students and creating targeted instruction instead of laying out materials."

"Even less-motivated students," affirms a middle school ESL teacher, "become involved and willing to participate."


All of the science classrooms at the middle school had a digital projector and Classroom Response Systems, also known as clickers, installed last summer. This system allows teachers to create questions for review, quizzes or tests ahead of time and then project them up on the wall. The teacher then has the option to go through each question and use it as a learning tool. Each student uses a clicker, which is approximately the size of a remote control, to submit their response.

A middle school teacher states that he is excited about using the Classroom Response Systems because it keeps all students engaged and forces all students to answer all questions. Without this system, when a teacher would call on a student for an answer, a certain portion of the class never had to respond or pay attention. He adds that he likes the instant feedback to both the teacher and student. If only a small portion of the class responds to a question correctly, the teacher knows that concept was not well received and can immediately readdress the concept. It also addresses the three basic learning styles of audio, visual and kinesthetic (moving). The fact that each student uses some type of electronic device and receives immediate feedback helps all students stay involved. Teachers also have access to reports that identify student strengths and weaknesses so individualized instruction can occur.

Using technologies such as these in the classroom brings learning into a real world, multi-sensory, student center context. Twenty-first century schools need twenty-first century technology to reach today's learner. Integrating today's technology into the classrooms gives this new media generation of learners instruction in a format that makes sense to them. What an exciting time to be a student!

Amy Tonsager is technology director in District 518.

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