Classroom technology improves school experiences and learning

October 29, 2018 — by Aaria Thomas and Edwin Chen

In World History teacher, Melissa Hesselgrave’s classroom, students sit grouped together peering intently at Chromebooks. The sounds of students voices is matched by keyboards clacking. Students work together jumping from documents to graphic organizers, typing their answers to questions for the French Revolution and watching the page count grow.

Some students are noticing a big change in their classrooms this year. The curriculum is the same. The teachers are the same. But the way they learn has been revolutionized by new technology being added into classrooms.

Student learning has changed dramatically from what it was a few years ago. As the use of technology grows in everyday life, it is also beginning to modify school routines.

Computer carts are becoming a more frequent sight around campus and smart boards and short throw projectors are popping up in many classrooms. Teachers find that using these devices can have an enormous benefit in students’ learning.

Hesselgrave currently uses Chromebooks and Google Drive in her classes to share documents.

“It has been a good way to share a lot of text and documents,” Hesselgrave said. “Students aren’t given a stack of papers, which I think can seem really daunting. It used to be like ‘here are all these documents that now I have to work with and annotate.’”

So far the transition from paper to online is going well. Many students are responding positively to the new format.

“Adding tech like Chromebooks to our classrooms has really changed the way I learn,” sophomore Andrew Xiao said. “Now, I carry fewer binders, making my load less. I can access my homework on the go. It’s really helped me manage my work.”

Integrating technology into classrooms doesn’t just help the students, it helps teachers with their lessons as well. For Hesselgrave, it has made teaching her classes easier.

She said that making graphic organizers online allows her to make last-minute edits without reprinting dozens of worksheets. Hesselgrave can also adjust the difficulty of an assignment as she is teaching based on the students’ response.

Other teachers are incorporating technology into their classes and lessons in other ways to facilitate teaching. Many departments throughout the school use different types of smart boards to teach their lectures.

Math teacher Kelly Frangieh uses an interactive whiteboard and uses e-beam to write on it. E-beam is an attachment that turns the board into an interactive surface that she can write on with a special pen.

This is her second year using this new board and she finds it preferable to her older smartboard that didn’t work well with the class.

“There’s a lot of cool tools in the software that I like to use,” Frangieh said. “I can make lines and squares and highlight, things like that. And then I just really like to be able to save what I do, so that students can access it on Canvas.”

The e-Beam technology was originally recommended to teachers by math teacher PJ Yim.

Yim said that a close acquaintance who worked for SMART, the company that makes the smart boards gave him a sample a couple of years ago. Once he had the time, Yim, with the help of now retired teacher Debra Troxell, gave the smart board a try. Though he was doubtful of the new board, he soon learned and enjoyed its benefits.

“The idea behind these things is that the board essentially becomes a gigantic trackpad on your computer,” said Yim. “ It’s very flexible.”

However, there are downsides that come with new technology.

“I see kids playing games on computers and stuff,” Xiao said. “I mean, it’s pretty abusive of all this new stuff, but that’s kind of inevitable.”

Despite this, teachers still think incorporating technology into classwork is important for students’ futures.

“It’s a skill set that all students should learn to be familiar with and comfortable with because it happens a lot in college and it will happen in your future workplaces too,” Hesselgrave said. “Learning how to type quickly, to take notes on laptops, to do shared graphic organizers and to send professional emails is really useful.”

To help students accomplish these goals, the administration is working on improving the technology already on campus, and incorporating more into classrooms, such as TVs and speakers for classes that depend on videos to teach.

Principal Paul Robinson said some classrooms are very up to date with technology and some aren’t. The ones that aren’t will be “refreshed and redone.” Assistant principal Brian Thompson is collaborating with new tech groups from the district in projects for updating classrooms.

“This has been an ongoing technology project for the last couple of years,” Thompson said. “Some have televisions and sound; other classrooms have the interactive system with a short-throw projector. Some teachers didn’t want interactivity so they just have a short-throw projector system. Each classroom has one of three different options.”

About half of the teachers’ classrooms on campus are involved in the project, and many teachers are open to the idea of integrating more technology into their schoolwork.

According to Robinson, teachers are requesting to add technology like Chromebook carts or smart boards into their classes. They have ideas based on what they have seen in other classes to make their lessons and teaching styles better.

“Good teaching is what impacts student learning the most, but good teaching coupled with really good technology, I think has a great advantage to it,” Robinson said.

Some teachers are also using tech beyond the typical Chromebooks and built-in speakers that the school typically offers. Chinese teacher Mariam Fan is using Google Cardboard to teach her AP students about Chinese tourist destinations.

“It gave students the chance, especially students who did not have chance to go [to the tourist destination], to feel visually that they’ve gone to that place,” said Fan.

AP Chinese student senior Kyle Yu found that Google Cardboard allowed him to see “what it’s like to be in that tourist destination,” helping him visualize his surroundings.

Technology is an effective tool to use in any field. When it is applied to education, it can help increase students’ understanding of certain topics.

“I’ve got the best teaching staff I’ve ever had in my life,” said Robinson, who has been a teacher and administrator for more than three decades. “And once we get them really working with better technology, the sky’s the limit.”

 

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