Educators share how tech is pushing engagement in novel ways

Walk into a Cleveland County Schools classroom today, and chances are you won’t find a traditional chalk board or an old-school overhead projector, but instead, laptop computers and touch-screen smartboards.

With technology at the forefront of education, classrooms are ever-evolving, and educators have begun to adapt and change their teaching approach to better suit 21st century classrooms filled with 21st century learners.

Tim Wease, CCS director of technology, said classrooms are now equipped with standard smartboards, and many teachers have begun using other technology-based, interactive tools such as Apple TV, online applications, Google Classroom, iPads and Chromebooks. Wease said more than 800 smartboards are distributed throughout the district.

“I view technology as a tool to enhance instruction. It gives teachers the ability to free themselves up to be mobile and not be stuck to the front of the classroom,” he said. “The smartboards perform a lot of different functions and get students engaged in learning with the ability to interact with tech in the front of the room.”

Brian Hunnell, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said educators throughout the district are incorporating more and more technology into their teaching routines, but several have gone above and beyond and have begun influencing their colleges to do more, as well.

“We’ve got so many teachers who are wanting kids to stretch their minds,” he said. “Technology isn’t the silver bullet of education, so to speak, but it is one more way to allow them to do that.”

Burns Middle School

Jordon Crowe, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Burns Middle School, isn’t your typical middle school classroom. The walls are covered in Nintendo video game posters, shelves are filled with memorabilia and technology is everywhere you look.

In his fifth year as a teacher, Crowe said he wanted to incorporate as much tech as he could, and began bringing in his personal equipment. Currently, in his classroom, he uses an iPad mounted to the wall at the front of the classroom, an iPad Pro that he recently purchased and an iMac computer that controls everything in the room.

The most recent addition to Crowe’s classroom is an upgraded smartboard that he called the “Cadillac” of smartboards. He said he found the board, brand new on Craigs List for $500 and drove the New Jersey to purchase the piece of equipment that’s worth several thousand dollars. He said the major draw was that this smartboard has a quad screen, which allows four students to work at once, instead of two, as well as the ability to manipulate and move objects on the screen.

“My kids walk in, and that’s the focal point, and they love it,” he said. “It enhances their educational experience and pushes engagement.”

Crowe said he’s spent about $5,000 upgrading his classroom. For him, the additional cost is well worth the reward of seeing his students engaged in the material he’s teaching.

Next page: Engagement at the high school and elementary school level

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