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School districts: Technology motivates students [Cleburne Times-Review, Texas :: ]
[July 25, 2014]

School districts: Technology motivates students [Cleburne Times-Review, Texas :: ]

(Cleburne Times-Review (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 23--As technology advances, school districts remain on the cutting edge to give students all they need to be successful in the future. However, some college professors are having trouble engaging students in the classroom with lectures when they're using their laptops or tablets to surf the web, according to a Washington Post article.

In the article, it mentions a Dartmouth computer science professor writing an article for the New Yorker, explaining how such devices should be removed from the classrooms. School officials disagree.

"If we can raise a generation to use technology for good I think it would be good for them in the long run," Smith Middle School seventh-grade math teacher Casey Barnes said.

Barnes' math classroom is one of more than 70 digital classrooms at Cleburne ISD. She uses a mixture of traditional teaching and instructional technology to keep students engaged. A collaboration that needs to work together, she said.

"I started making online lessons on my class set of iPads but I wasn't seeing much growth," Barnes said. "Students watching lesson videos pulled back, so I went back to traditional teaching." However, with that she also mixed in technology. One program she uses a lot in her classroom is Insight 360, where students can work problems on their iPads and Barnes can project a student's work on a larger screen.

"The program is an awesome way to receive feedback from students," she said. "I ask a question and every student can give a response. I project their work without using any names so students can feel comfortable if they do get an answer wrong." The program also allows for a creative response where Barnes can see everything a student is doing on their iPad. It allows her to help students who are not grasping a certain math concept.

She's also taught science and English and in those subjects she used Google Drive. Students can upload digital worksheets and essays onto the drive for collaborative work with peers and teachers.

"I started working for CISD since 2009 and one of things I've received the most training on is technology," Barnes said. "One big thing for CISD is technology." Two weeks ago CISD sent teachers to iPadpalooza in Austin. It was a two-day training on how to use iPads in the classrooms. Barnes said she learned how to customize her iPads that would fit best for her classroom.

Use of technology in the classrooms has often received negative feedback, claiming it makes things easier for students, increasing distraction and disengagement. However, CISD instructional coordinator Jane Flynn rebuts that.

"When people say it makes it easier for students and they're not really learning, I have to disagree," Flynn said. "If anything using technology in the classrooms makes it harder for the students." Flynn explains that students don't really know much about technology other than just posting statuses and pictures online. What schools are doing is teaching students to take a concept learned in the classroom and apply towards practical use.

Part of Flynn's job is to look at the curriculum and see how technology can be used as a tool on assignments to motivate students.

"One of our fifth-grade classes were doing story plots for English class then we asked them to use a program from Google to animate their story plot," she said. "The kids get so excited because they get to see their work come to life." Alvarado ISD recently purchased additional iPads and 3D printers. AISD Superintendent Chester Juroska said adding this technology is just the first step to continue to motivate students in newer and interesting ways.

Schools are also using many applications that can be downloaded to help in the classroom like ChatterPix, PicCollage, Prezi, Adobe and more. Schools are using programs like Edmodo where students can communicate with teachers and peers and it also has the appeal of a social networking site. Teachers can upload calenders and give assignments, and in return, students can also post on the board and their assignments, reducing teacher workload.

There is also an increase of Google at districts. Most districts provide Chromebooks and require students to set up a gmail account and upload assignments using Google Drives. Godley ISD is considered a Google school district, just like CISD.

GISD staff also uses Google+ as a resource to develop personal learning networks allowing educators to share and gain ideas with other educators.

"Our district acknowledges the dominance of social media in modern society; and integration of social media into the classroom is an expectation mandated by our administration," Educational Technology Coordinator Kelly Hanna said. "As the various social media forms evolve and emerge, the real challenge we are faced with is how to use those tools efficiently and responsibly." One issue that comes across when using technology is that some students don't have access to Internet or devices at home. That's why school districts have taken the initiative to continue to add more devices to classrooms.

In many area school districts, trustees have approved additional iPads or tablets in hopes that every child could have access to one.

At Joshua ISD for instance, every elementary classroom has a class set of iPads. At the Loflin Middle School, classrooms have a class set of laptops for projects and research. The district also purchased new Chromebooks for the Ninth Grade Campus and Joshua High School.

"Our job is to prepare students for the world they will encounter even after they graduate," JISD instructional technologist Patty Webb said in an email. "Technology has become more and more important in every aspect of life, so by integrating technology into the classroom we are preparing them for the future." Burleson ISD uses a plethora of technology in its curriculum. BISD uses technology, applications and social media to engage students and parents.

"We understand what a major role technology plays in our students' lives, and we want to take advantage of that interest to engage our students in the classroom," said Steve Logan, BISD executive director of technology, in a statement. "By providing and encouraging the use of digital tools, we can create a relevant and engaging learning environment that fosters critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity." School officials often mention digital citizenship, where students are taught to be responsible on the Internet and use it for good.

"I know we're at a time when students are always on their phone but if we can teach them that the Internet is not for games, the more responsible they will be in the future," Barnes said. "The earlier we start and change their perception from 'I want to play Angry Birds' to 'What do I want to learn?' then they'll be ahead." ___ (c)2014 Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas) Visit the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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