Every once in a while, you hear of a school district that has obtained iPads for all of its students.
It makes a big technology splash and other districts are left wondering, “when are we going to buy iPads for all our children?”
Lest anyone get their hopes up, we are not planning on buying 3,500 or $2 million worth of iPads any time soon — although the superintendent is exploring some cost-effective options. More and more technology is seeping into our schools and classrooms every year.
As a parent of a student at O’Maley Middle School and one at Gloucester High, I thought I would share with you what we observed in the two recent “meet the teacher nights” when it comes to use of technology.
The first thing that struck me was one high school teacher who held up a 10-pound history book that costs the school district $80. He then directed our attention to iTunes where a student could buy the exact same text book for $14.99 and have their own copy at home.
The middle school social studies teacher informed us that the textbook that he uses in his class is available for free online through the publisher’s website. Rather than lug heavy textbooks back and forth, the backpacks just got lighter by being able to keep one textbook at school and having one at home.
Learning languages is another area where some teachers are deploying technology. The Italian teacher has selected a textbook that is fully supported by an interactive web application. The student can go to the website, turn to the page in the textbook he is learning from, click on some links, and then hear an audio recording that reinforces the Italian spoken by the teacher in the classroom. This is certainly not the way I learned French 35 years ago!
One of the English Language Arts (ELA) teachers showed us the blog that she maintains for her classroom. Each student is required to periodically make blog entries, and can do so using school computers. For the child, this is another, and fun way to improve and practice writing skills. All the entries are screened by the teacher for appropriateness and the child’s identity is protected.
Almost every teacher keeps his or her own webpage, which is accessed from the Gloucester Public Schools website. Some are simple and plain while others are full of dynamic content. Maybe the most important information contained on the teacher’s webpage is homework information.
For instance, the other night when I heard, “Mom, I can’t do my homework because I forgot to bring the assignment home,” I was able to say, “well, go look it up on your teacher’s website.” The response to this was, “Oh, OK. Good idea.” And the homework got done.
Every classroom is equipped with a computer. At the middle school, most are hooked into a smart white board where the screen is displayed for all the students. The world of information is at the teacher’s fingertips and readily shared with the children.
Because not every child has the same access to computers at home, it was reassuring to hear the teachers be very clear that the technology is just a supplement to the classroom, a tool to reinforce the lesson, or a shortcut to having to carry paper and books back and forth.
Maybe someday each child in Gloucester’s public schools will be equipped with an iPad.
But until then, there are many innovative ways in which technology is being used in our schools.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.