When Lynnette Humphrey became a teacher 10 years ago in the Crane Elementary School District, teachers didn't have access to e-mails, let alone telephones in their classrooms.
Years later, in her new position as coordinator of technology curriculum for the district, she shared that Crane schools have progressed tremendously in terms of technology integration.
“Now teachers have the opportunity to use digital projectors, document cameras and MimioPads, and these tools allow them to bring the outside world more into the classroom, especially with the Internet,” she said.
Humphrey explained that these items allow for things like an object in the classroom to be projected on the screen, giving the teachers the ability to make the lesson more interactive by zooming in and out, showing video clips during presentations to illustrate a point or writing on the screen remotely so the instructor can walk around the classroom while teaching.
“If we can't afford to go to Washington, D.C., we can tour it right there in class,” she said. “I can go on a virtual field trip with my classroom. It helps our students gain more understanding and get a deeper understanding of the world around them and become more engaged in lessons.”
An advantage to having MimioPads specifically, she said, is that instructors can pass off the equipment to students and allow them to solve problems or write on the board from their seat.
“It helps make the students more excited about learning because now the teacher is not the only one working on the board anymore,” Humphrey said.
Students in the district enrolled in the Gowan Achievement Program (GAP) also have the ability to interact with computers on a daily basis.
She noted that students outside of the GAP program have access to the usually one or two computers in their classroom used for differentiated instruction.
“For example, if I'm teaching something and I had a student who didn't necessarily get that concept, I can put them on the computer and there are various programs we use throughout the district to fill those gaps,” Humphrey shared.
Last year was probably the biggest jump in technology they've seen districtwide in quite some time, she recalled.
“During the last school year we were able to have it achievable so every teacher for the most part could have a digital projector, and that's huge,” said Humphrey.
Instead of the traditional projectors of the past, which were limited to projecting what you could make a copy of, the digital projectors allow instructors to do things like project a word document to edit it with the class as they're going through the process of diagramming a sentence.
“It's very instantaneous,” she commented. “Anything that you can do with a computer, you can essentially do up in front of the classroom. Our students live in a digital world and we need to try and maintain, to some level, something that they recognize so they can build on that prior knowledge to be able to move forward.”
In terms of data gathering, technology has also been instrumental in determining exactly where a student is struggling to be able to intervene quickly, she added.
Humphrey concluded that with technology comes along the need to protect the students while they are online.
This year, students will be taught from a curriculum that includes lessons on digital citizenship, ensuring kids are safe online, know what to do when they are exposed to a bully and can determine what is and what is not a valid website.
“We're using all this technology and it's great, but we also need to make sure students understand their place in it and that they're protected and successful in navigating a digital world as well.”
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.