Local school district has new technology and teaching methods

High school mathematics teacher Amy Wild is one of the teachers making the most of the new technology at Caledonia Area Middle/High School. Photo by Clay Schuldt

By Clay Schuldt
Special for the Argus

The Caledonia Public School has come a long way from the old black board and chalk in the classroom. Touch screens and computers are beginning to be the norm, thanks to several technology purchases made with funds from the One-Day Bond approved by Caledonia residents last November.

“The long term goal is to just keep up with technology,” said Erick Jerviss, the school’s network technician. “The One Day Bond money is huge because that is able to jump start it.”

Technology purchases include 60 Thin Client Laptops. “They are a more inexpensive way to get computers in the hands of students,” explained Jerviss. “They connect to a server and then the server does all the processing.”

The server setup has been in the Caledonia Middle/High School building since day one but the bond money allowed for an update in the technology. In addition to the Thin Clients the school will see the installation of 137 desktop computers. Many of the older computers will be given new larger monitors that will be both easier on the eyes and more energy efficient. Jerviss estimates between $200 and $250 in savings on the electric bill per month by simply switching out the monitors.

One of the most impressive new technologies was the purchase of seven Smart Boards. While the Smart Board resembles a simple dry erase board it is actually an impressive piece of technology.

The Smart Board is a three foot by five foot interactive whiteboard with touch screen software. Teachers and students are able to write on the board with four specialized colored electronic pens; however a person can draw with their fingers as well. Two of the Smart Boards have been installed in the high school math department while the other five were installed in the elementary school.

“In the elementary school Smart Boards can be used for about any subject,” Jerviss explained that it’s a very hands on process. “We put three in the kindergarten class to be interactive with the students. They can get up and use the technology.”  Students are allowed to go up to touch the screen and manipulate shapes and objects.

High school mathematics teacher Amy Wild is one of the teachers making the most of the new technology. While the math department received two new Smart Boards this last week, Wild’s classroom received a board a year earlier.

For Wild the Smart Board was a real benefit as it allows her to access and manipulate information easier with a few simple swipes of a finger.  Linking the Smart Board to her computer, Wild is able to show students complex calculus and graphic problems. In addition, a specialized scanner allows documents to be uploaded onto the Smart Board. “It makes things go a little quicker,” said Wild. “We get a little bit more done.”

The Smart Board is also a benefit for students who miss a day of class.  Unlike the old school chalk board, all the information written on the Smart Board can be saved. Absent students are then able to access the information they missed. With the addition of two new Smart Boards in the math department the technology will become more common place.

In addition to becoming well versed in Smart Board technology, Wild has used the school’s new technology to an inverted teaching method. Wild has begun recording class lectures and posting them online for students to access.

“It’s called a flip the classroom,” Wild explained. “The homework is watching the lecture and you do the problem solving in class.” This method of teaching allows students to receive help from the teacher during school hours, rather than try to solve the problems alone at home. “It has been working out and has received really good feedback,” commented Wild.

Wild has only recently started posting lectures online as the school just purchased the technology capabilities. Wild admits that it is still a learning process for her as well. “I’ve been playing around with several programs to see which works best.”

The lectures take time to produce and edit together and occasionally mistakes are made. Wild has implemented a policy that if her students find a mistake with a lesson she created, the student receives extra credit. Wild also cited a lack of immediate feedback during online lectures. Students cannot ask question during the lesson, needing to wait until class time the next morning. However by posting the lectures online students are able to review the lesson as many times as necessary. This allows individual students to move at their own speed.

Wild commented that she believes this new technology will benefit the individual learners, specifically citing iPad technology. “I think there is a lot more we can do with the technology,” said Wild. “I think there will be more we can do with the iPad.  We can do more for individualization.”

The Caledonia Elementary School will be supplied with an iPad cart containing 30 iPads. Jerviss agreed with the ipad powerful educational tool saying, “There is a ton of educational apps out there for the iPad.”  Various software companies have entire lessons available for download, such as a biology program that allows students to virtually dissect a frog.

No one is able to predict how technology will change, even over the next few years, but for the staff of Caledonia Public School the goal is to stay current, as Jerviss explained.

“We always want to bring in new technologies; the latest and greatest things, but we want to make sure what we have for the students and staff are as up to date as possible so they are able to use it seamlessly.”