News

How tech is taking the terror out of learning

By Stuart Hirsch, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
October 26th, 2015

Tech and 21st century collaboration and creativity terror-learningchange age-old school cliches

The scariest moments in elementary school for most adults of a certain age involved being summoned to the blackboard.

The long walk to the front of the room.

The deathly quiet.

The eyes of classmates boring into your cranium, which at that moment invariably felt completely empty.

Taking the chalk from your teacher in one sweaty hand and coming up with what you hoped, you prayed, was the right answer.

If not, that walk back to your desk seemed to double or triple in length while the teacher called another student to the blackboard.

Matt Wiseman’s fourth-graders at Frankton Elementary School know nothing of this trauma.

For them, answering questions with their Chromebooks, taking part in quizzes and class exercises with results displayed on a big screen is fun.

The spirit of friendly competition and excitement is infectious.

Frankton-Lapel Community Schools is one of two public school districts in Madison County this year that have incorporated one-to-one technology in the classroom.

That simply means each student (usually beginning in the third grade) is equipped with an iPad or Chromebook computer. The other district is Alexandria Community School Corp., although every school corporation is incorporating the technology into their schools on some level.

Computers are not taking over instruction, said assistant principal Joe Bowman. Rather, they are “enhancing our overall good teaching that is going on.”

“They create a new avenue for learning and reaching kids, adding some excitement and fun into learning, which is always good,” he added. “We are engaging students and attempting to reach those who may need a little push to be motivated. A lot of kids are responding well and are excited to learn.”

Principal Ronda Podzielinski said administrators have been preparing for this transition for several years under the leadership of Assistant Superintendent Sterling Boles.

“Teachers were initially nervous because they thought that we were going to expect them to use it all day, and that’s not what we planned at all,” Podzielinski said. “Computers are not going to replace a good book and all the other things a teacher uses. It’s just another way to help students learn information they need to know.

While a generational divide does exist between older and younger teachers, she said staff as a whole has embraced the new technology by merging Google Docs and Google Classroom as well as Facebook and other social media to create better collaboration and communication between students and students, students and teachers, and teachers with parents.

“We veterans are game to learn, but it just takes us a little bit longer. What’s great is the kids are a good help, too,” Podzielinski said. “I think for a small school district we’re trying to get our kids exposed to technology because it’s important. It’s their world now.

Wiseman said using computers are a vast improvement over hauling stacks of paper back and forth between school and home for grading, and they save time.

“I can go home, pull up anything I want to see that they submit on the computer. It saves me lots of time,” he said.

Sixth-grade language arts teacher Rachel Friend said her students are using their computers to create online journals and that their creative writing assignments seem to flow better.

Using a computer, she believes, allows them the focus more on what they write rather than how they write. Students don’t worry about whether their handwriting is legible, and don’t have to stop and look up how to spell a word or gather information. Typing takes care of the legibility problem; they can use Google to quickly find information, and writing programs underline misspelled words, which students can fix later.

The computer “frees their minds to be a little more creative because all those grammatical things we can fix up in the end,” Friend said.

She’s always had an interest in technology, and participating in this summer’s e-Learn conference at Anderson University was an excellent resource to help prepare for one-to-one.

“It’s still a big world that we’re learning, but I think the transition has been pretty smooth,” Friend said.

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