Technological educationFrom chalkboards to iPods, technology use in schools has come a long way.
From chalkboards to iPods, technology use in schools has come a long way. State and local officials say technology such as iPods — a portable media player — “clickers” — a student response system — as well as electronic book reading devices help to enhance students’ learning. LeAnn Nelson, director of professional development with the North Dakota Education Association, said utilizing technology in school curriculum is becoming more and more popular. “It’s been gradual as the new technology has been coming, and through the last few years I suppose it’s been coming kind of fast, because they’re always coming up with something new,” Nelson said. Nelson said she believes technology can increases student achievement. While the majority of teachers are open to new technology, Nelson said they are a little bit nervous about using it. “They really don’t understand the technology as well as the kids do,” Nelson said. “It’s just understanding what the technology is and how to use it effectively.” Nelson said technology should be used more to enhance a lesson, not to replace anything. Measuring the success of students due to technology integration in the classrooms is difficult, she added. “It’s hard to determine whether the technology was really the factor in increasing student achievement,” Nelson said. “There’s reports that say that it does, but then there’s a lot of other things going on in the classroom that may have affected that achievement as well. “They cannot pinpoint that it was actually technology.” Del Quigley, principal of Lincoln Elementary in Dickinson, said the use of technology within the schools, such as the iPods, have been beneficial. Quigley estimates there are about 12 iPods in classrooms in Lincoln, which are utilized by the kindergarten, first- and second-graders. In the future, Quigley said they are looking into getting small camcorders called Flip cameras to be utilized by the students and teachers, who could post demonstrations of lessons online for parents to refer to when helping kids with homework, among other uses. “I think every kid in my school has an iPod,” Quigley said. “The Flip cameras are something they don’t have, so they were really excited about using some of the demo ones we had and seeing how they could work. “That was a little different for them, but they’re not one bit afraid of technology.” Kindergartners in Cindy Welch’s classroom at Lincoln have access to an iPod which currently stores about 30 books and close to 20 compact discs, Welch said, but has the capacity to handle much more. Books loaded onto the iPod can be listened to by the students while they follow along with the physical book. A voice amplification system connected to speakers in the classroom is often utilized as well, she said, which helps save her voice and keeps her tone at a lower level, in turn keeping the students calmer. “The emphasis right now isn’t so much on new equipment … but now it’s Internet-based things,” Quigley said. “It’s all about communication and working with people all around the world.” Computers are utilized many times during the day at both Trinity elementaries in Dickinson, said Peggy Mayer, principal of Trinity Elementary East and Trinity Elementary West. “Our students do use the computers throughout the day for several different classes,” Mayer said. “We can always use more equipment, you can always use more training for the equipment you have, and yet a book is still a good thing. “You have to kind of remember that; there’s nothing wrong with a book or picking up a pencil and writing a story rather than typing it.” Jon Jahner, technology coordinator for Bowman County School, said the school is looking into getting some nooks — electronic book readers — and potentially getting more laptop computers into the hands of students. Currently, the school utilizes interactive whiteboards and document cameras, among other items. “In the future, we’ve looked into some iPod issues, currently we don’t have any that we use, but we do use a lot of computers and we’re looking into going into a fairly computer-based curriculum, but probably a computer-enhanced curriculum,” Jahner said. “They (the students) are a lot less scared to use it (technology) than we are.” Today’s students are often raised with technology in the home and are curious about how it works and how they can take it further, Nelson said. While technology has blossomed over the years, some believe a little more focus on the basics would be more beneficial. “I think maybe more time should be spent with spelling, reading and writing,” said Cleo Kulish, a retired teacher from Dickinson. Kulish taught for about 42 years, some of those years in country schools, and said before she retired about 19 years ago, she utilized a floppy-disk format Apple Macintosh computer, produced by Apple Inc., the maker of iPods. “I had to type in the names of all the students and then we used the accelerated reading and the accelerated math,” Kulish said. “They all had to take turns because we just had one little machine in the room. For that, I enjoyed it, but I’m not acquainted with what’s going on otherwise.” Kulish said she has taken some computer classes to help familiarize herself with newer technology. “Students love technology because this is the way of their world — they have grown up with it. Teachers are trying to keep up with technology to better prepare their students for the 21st century,” Nelson said in an e-mail. “So teachers need professional development to learn about the latest technologies and how they can effectively integrate them into their classrooms.”