Students from four Georgia school districts were on Capitol Hill March 4 showing federal lawmakers how technology is being used to enhance teaching and learning in their classrooms–and why federal funding for school technology is important.
Sixteen students from four Georgia counties participated in "Capitol Hill Tech Day," pulling legislators aside to show them examples of educational technology projects made possible with federal funding. The students showed legislators how they can listen to podcasts on iPods and other MP3 players to hear lessons they missed when they were absent from school and how interactive whiteboards make class interesting.
"We want legislators to see their dollars at work and see that technology is making a big difference in the classroom," said Mimi McGahee, director of the Educational Technology Center (ECT) at Valdosta State University. "We want them to see that [technology] is not an add-on, it’s a way of learning. It’s our world."
Many of the students said the technology their schools have received through Title II, Part D (Enhancing Education Through Technology, or EETT) grants has made learning fun.
"It keeps me awake," said Britta White, a 12th-grader at Burke County High School in Waynesboro, Ga., of using Promethean whiteboards in her AP calculus class.
White said that when her teacher asks the students to submit answers to math problems using student response systems, it forces her to pay attention throughout the entire class because her teacher knows if she hasn’t responded to the question. And it’s also an incentive for her to get the correct answer, White said, because her teacher immediately knows if she’s gotten it wrong.
"Plus, writing on the board is really cool," she said. "When my teacher asks for volunteers, you want to be involved and write on the board."
Interactivity through technology is something that Kentrell Washington, a 12th-grader at Mitchell County High School in Camilla, Ga., said is necessary to help catch the interest of his classmates.
"When you increase technology to students, they get interested in class and learning," he said. "A lot of people need to be interactive–talk and do things–instead of just sitting down and reading and writing. They learn better that way."
Schley County Elementary School fifth-grader Audrey Duncan agreed.
"It makes learning a lot more fun," she said of her school’s "big, ‘ginormous’ computer screen"–a Promethean ActivBoard. "Instead of reading out of boring books where you’re about to fall asleep, you can use the ActivBoard."
ETC’s mission is to work with teachers so they can learn how to use the technology and, in turn, teach the students.
"We need to continue to promote the use of technology in the classroom," said Kristi Richburg, instructional technology specialist with ETC at Chattahoochee-Flint RESA in Ellaville, Ga., stressing the importance of funding not only tools, but teacher training as well.
"It’s one thing to have the equipment, but if you don’t have the training, it’s just going to be a big, $3,000 computer on the wall," Richburg said.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last month provides $650 million for EETT, up from $272 million last year. Participants in the Capitol Hill Tech Day said they hope lawmakers will continue to fund EETT at this higher level after the stimulus money has been spent.
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