From high-tech white boards to hand held mini computing devices, technology is becoming an integral part of Idaho classrooms.
At Discovery Elementary School, a $370,000 state grant to spend on technology is helping a first grade classroom look more like a movie studio than a traditional chalkboard and book oriented environment.
Students and teachers are now being engaged in a whole new way. Lisa Bray who is a 2nd grade teacher and Instructional Technology Integration Coach explained to On Your Side, “The kids have all this technology and want to be a part of it.”
However, some parents have questioned the use of all the gadgets, but administrators insist everything they do with technology is educational.
Bray explained that students are using Google Earth to explore Tokyo. “We are doing research and project based activities with students,” she explained, “We don’t have to go on field trips anymore. We can use iPads or netbooks to view animals and environments.”
Another school that is now fully embracing technology is Middleton High School. The state awarded a $427,000 grant to the school which now allows for every teenager to have their own laptop.
Walk into a classroom here and you will no longer see textbooks, pens or paper.
Grace Stone, a senior at Middleton, and is one of twenty “ninjas” that is trained to assist students with computer problems explained to On Your Side, “When we have to do research projects, it’s a lot easier than having to go home and do the project on a different computer.”
Almost all the students opt to keep their machines with them 24/7. The laptops can only connect through the district’s secure server to ensure that administrators can control content and block inappropriate sites including Facebook.
So far, Middleton has not had a single laptop lost or stolen. Stone explained that, “Giving students laptops makes them feel like they are being trusted in a way.”
Middleton wrote its grant with the Go-On Initiative in mind. School leaders hope the use of technology increases the number of students seeking a higher education. Every high school student is now required to create a web based portfolio that includes a resume, civic engagement and their long format research writing assignments.
Stone says her web page keeps her focused on her future of one day becoming an aerospace engineer.
Another school funded with grants is Kuna Middle School.
With every seventh and eighth grader working on a web based Chromebook, teachers become guides rather than lecturers and students can progress individually or in smaller groups.
Ashleigh Jensen, an Educational Technology Specialist at the Kuna School District, believes that the technology is helping students, “To become more independent learners, which is what we want. We don’t want them to sit and get what teachers want to explore, find and discover.”
The state gave Kuna the largest chunk of grant money totaling around $900,000.
Jensen believes that the technology allows for self-expression with students and explained, “You really get to see the individual student because you give one assignment and you get 32 ways of how it’s done back. It’s cool to see their personalities shine through. And they take more ownership of learning as well because it’s what they wanted to do.”
The key for successful students is fostering a love of learning and allowing for self-expression and technology may be the key to insure every child can find their own path.