As technology takes a bigger place in the professional and personal world today, it is also finding its way into more and more public classrooms across the country. From laptops to iPads, students are learning to incorporate technology into the learning process to enhance their educational experience overall. This trend does not show any signs of slowing; in fact, school districts nationwide are finding more money in already tight budgets to equip classrooms with all the gadgetry they need to bring their students effectively into the 21st century. This article will take a look at exactly how technology is finding a place in the public school classroom today.
Online Textbooks Replacing Traditional Books
Online textbooks do not get lost or stolen, they don’t take up space in a locker or backpack, and they provide a wealth of additional resources - all with a single click of the mouse. It is no wonder that online textbooks are fast replacing traditional books today. A report in the Kingstowne Patch announced a pilot program in Fairfax County Schools to provide online social studies books for all high school and middle school students this year. To access the online books, students will be encouraged to bring their own laptops to school. Those that don’t have their own computers will be provided one by the district.
The schools are also working to ensure students will have the same access to their online textbooks when they are away from the classroom. Peter Noonan, assistant superintendent for instructional services at the district, told the Patch, “Those students who don’t have access, we’ll work very closely with their families privately to ensure they have the access necessary to get a level playing field.”
Number of Laptops Growing in Some School Districts
Laptops are becoming an easy way for teachers to incorporate textbooks and other online resources into the learning experience. In Michigan, Farmington Public Schools are becoming that much closer to their lofty goal of equipping every student with a laptop this year, providing an additional 800 computers to elementary schools across the district. This means that there will now be a computer for every two students in Farmington schools.
Although the laptops are a much-awaited addition to Farmington classrooms, some concerns have been raised about the lack of support provided to teachers who are incorporating computers in their classrooms. According to a report at the Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch, school board members have been learning of frustrations among some of the teachers who have been unable to get technical support to keep the machines up and running the way they want. In addition, scheduling computer use has also become a problem for some Farmington school teachers as schools look for ways to share the computers between all of the classrooms within a school.
iPads and Other Tablets in Classrooms
Even as the laptop trend is still going strong, students and teachers are starting to tune into even later and greater technology available through the iPad. These tablets are proving even more useful in some classrooms than laptops, due to their ability to serve as textbooks, note-takers, Internet access, and daily planners all in a single device. The trend has been further boosted by Apple’s commitment to putting tablet computers into as many classrooms as possible, as fast as possible.
In Florida, Lake Minneola High School students will find themselves receiving their own iPad that they will be able to use at both school and home. These devices will be a part of a pilot program in Florida to incorporate technology into the classroom. The iPads will save money on textbooks and provide a wealth of new options for teachers to introduce new concepts to their students.
Kathy Halbig, an innovative learning manager for the Lake School District, told the Orlando Sentinel, “Students learn differently now because of the technology. Students are used to having multiple sources and being able to have more social collaboration in their learning process rather than just doing it sitting quietly and reading.”
Wilmette public school children in Chicago will also gain access to iPads this year. According to Trib Local, the district is acquiring 90 iPads for the upcoming school year, which it will use to increase interaction in the classroom by interfacing them with the SMART board used by the teacher. The SMART boards are now used in Wilmette classrooms on a daily basis, since their addition a number of years ago.
Adam Denenberg, director of technology and media services for Wilmette Public Schools, told Trib Local, “Teachers are using them on a daily basis. They are getting the students involved in using them as well.” In fact, Denenberg added, “Our teachers are becoming so dependent and reliant on this tool that when they’re out sick, they want to leave ‘sub-plans’ for substitute teachers to use the SMART boards as well.”
While this school district does not currently have a goal of putting an iPad in every student’s hands, officials within the district agree that the move toward technology is definitely gravitating in that direction. Denenberg told Trib Local, “I think that’s something people would be excited about, but I think at this point, I don’t know if it’s cost prohibitive. You never know, technology does get cheaper, faster, more portable.”
While school districts vary considerably in the type and amount of technology they put into their classrooms every year, one thing is clear; technology as the wave of the future is quickly becoming the present method of learning in classrooms across the country.
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