Dropping by Lockwood Elementary the other day, I saw the most amazing teachers using the most interesting classroom tools.
Invited by Lab Manager Eulonda Jackson who provided an overview of some of the technologies in place at Lockwood, I was met by Margaret Briseño and taken around to various classrooms as she explained some of the things they were doing.
There is much discussion about preparing students for the future — teaching 21st century learners — but actually doing so presents more of a challenge than you might think. Many students still have little or no access to technology at home. The perpetual challenge in a school district remains to strategically deploy and integrate available technologies as effectively as possible to enhance education.
First stop was Sandra Santellano’s classroom. You might not think a kindergarten class could be a smoothly running and organized learning environment, but it was.
Santellano’s students were using digital smartpens to help them learn to read. A student would tap a dot or area on the page; the student would hear what was recorded in the pen; then, repeat or correct. It was truly amazing to see a classroom of students busily and actively engaged in their own learning as their teacher circulated around offering assistance where needed.
A 4th grade class, taught by Kathryn Gonzales, was using NEO2s to respond to a variety of questions and discussion. This very durable interactive device allowed students to type on and generate a variety of responses to hone writing skills, and send to share with other students. Her students were completely engaged as they collaborated in pairs or small groups during their lesson.
Another classroom — Heather Chauret’s second grade — was actively engaged in learning all about money and counting, using a device called a Mimio. This small, plastic bar affixes to a regular dry-erase whiteboard and converts the surface of the whiteboard via an infrared signal into a digital, interactive surface.
This means students could walk up to the whiteboard and write with digital ink and manipulate a variety of digital objects — in this case, a variety of coins and other related objects to learn about how money breaks down into decimals.
Talk about being engaged. Students were grouped in pairs or small groups and working together to figure out answers to the questions she posed. I eased closer to two little boys who were very intent in their conversation, and I thought for sure they had to be talking about something else, they were so intent.“No … this has to be right,” said one to the other, “because I know it takes three quarters to make 75 cents.”
Laura Acuña’s third-grade class was using one iPad connected to projector so a large image was shared with the class to learn about the differences between fact and opinion.
Technology alone will not fix education, but in the hands of inspired educators, it can help to transform a classroom.
Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at email@example.com