The Herald Bulletin

April 9, 2012

Three R’s and a big ‘T’

Local schools seeking resources to help pay for technology

By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin

PENDLETON, Ind. — Technology plays a big role in everyday life, and many schools are testing the waters when it comes to new tech equipment. Others, well, they’re wading into uncertainty. Not because they don’t want more technology, but because they can’t pay for it.

Computers in classrooms and labs are fairly standard, but districts that can afford it are pushing the envelope. Schools such as Pendleton Heights High and Alexandria-Monroe Elementary already have wireless Internet and laptops for students to use in classrooms.

Pendleton Heights Principal Mark Hall said his school is also considering implementation of mobile devices such as iPads and iPods.

“We may expand (the technology), but it’s got to be something that’s truly driving instructional learning,” he said.

So the school is exploring flip classrooms in some science courses. Instead of lugging home school work, students go home and watch videos on the school’s website or YouTube. Then they spend the next day working on coursework in the classroom, where the teacher lends help.

“We’re taking a cautious approach to make sure we’re going in the right direction,” Hall said.

E-readers can be checked out through the school library. The school tapped general library funds, money that would routinely be used for hard-copy books, to purchase the e-readers. Other electronic items have been purchased with grant money.

A Mobi, a wireless interactive device connected to an overhead LCD projector, enables teachers to walk around the classroom and assist students while still writing on the overhead. Clickers linked to a teacher’s computer let students respond to questions anonymously — only the teacher can see who needs additional help.

Elwood High School is using clickers, Mobis and SMART boards. But the school’s tight budget means it can’t provide iPads or other advanced devices for students to take home. Principal Tami Eder noted that everyone is interested in more technology, but not all can afford it.

Valley Grove Elementary School Principal Jan Koeniger noted that “there’s always a push for more technology,” but when schools have to cut back on funds, money for technology is often among the first funds defrayed.

Valley Grove and schools in Anderson, such as East Side Intermediate — which has already received grants for SMART boards — are seeking ways to purchase more of that technology.

Koeniger noted that Valley Grove is currently raising money to purchase SMART boards, clickers and document cameras that can capture images, even three-dimensional forms, and display them on an interactive board.

Children learn quickly from technology that “puts information at their fingertips,” Koeniger said. “Kids are driven by technology now with phones and games. It holds their attention better than a book.”

Some websites enable teachers to subscribe to hundreds of books, noted Scott Deetz, principal of Alexandria-Monroe Elementary School. The school is beginning to adopt electronic textbooks rather than “outfit classrooms” with hard-copy books for every student.

Some classrooms are already using iPads for reading time. With the wireless Internet, books download in about five minutes, Deetz said.

Grants from the Indiana Department of Education have helped purchase those iPads, providing another example of how local schools are increasingly seeking resources to implement technology.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.