Technology in the Classroom: Episode One

Ten years ago, teenagers could only imagine the devices and technologies today we feel we can’t live without. Since then, technology has reached its pinnacle, especially in regard to the educational community. “Technology has had a dramatic effect on both my teaching as well as student learning,” acknowledges Mr. Longo, science teacher and rookie to Bethel High School.

There are MacBooks, SMART Boards, science probes, and tech classes, all of which are focused on the sole purpose of using technology for innovative learning. Mr. Longo is a strong believer that using technology at the high school level, “will prepare [students] for the challenges in college, and more importantly, the workplace and their life as adults.”

Mr. Longo, the Department chair of BHS’s Science Program, effectively uses the technology to enhance his students’ understanding. He uses this technology when he teaches Digital Biology, which is part of the Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. “I have found many online resources that not only teach the concepts, but also push students to think critically and apply concepts,” he explains.

Mrs. Peterson, math teacher at BHS, is notorious for using her SMART Board to ensure mathematical understanding. She says that the SMART Board is helpful because “everything written on it can be saved on my laptop” allowing her to “copy” and “paste” certain lessons, especially during a review. “Students in my AP classes enjoy flying through so many concepts during our review time,” says Mrs. Peterson.

Mrs. Peterson, as well as the other SMART Board- users at BHS, benefits from the SMART Board’s visual representation feature. She says, “I have access to graph paper, dot paper, axes on a plain and 3D, polar, logarithmic, isometric and so on. I also can use extremely accurate figures on the board to reinforce students’ visualization skills,” allowing her to “easily demonstrate geometric transformations such as rotations, reflections, and transformations.” Mrs. Peterson finds that her use of the SMART Board enhances the mathematical understanding of her students. The SMART Board is also valued because it is connected to the computer; therefore letting teachers save their SMART Board notes for absent students or for collaboration with other teachers.

“I have seen a shift in the way that technology affects our school,” notes Mr. Longo. “Money in our school budget is found in an actual technology budget category.” He says that BHS values technology for educational purposes as shown by the many technology programs offered at BHS and providing technology training for teachers. Mr. Longo specifically mentions the introduction of PowerSchool, an online grade book, which is new as of last year. PowerSchool “is used in our district as a means for parents, students, and teachers to be aware of student academic progress,” explains Mr. Longo. “This holds students accountable and responsible [for their work and grades].”

Despite the benefits of technology in the classroom, there are also major disadvantages. For instance, “technical difficulties” may impede learning and confuse students. “Also, technology provides a major disadvantage as students simply ‘google’ information and do not understand the difference between a reliable website and a website that is inaccurate or not credible,” says Mr. Longo. He adds that social networking sites, like Facebook, are distracting students.

With this said, Mrs. Peterson has found a way to use social networking technology to her advantage: “I use Twitter to reach my students to remind them about upcoming assignments or inform them about any changes in their homework,” says Mrs. Peterson. Students respond positively her use of technology, especially during the many snow days we have received this year.

Mr. Longo summarizes, “Bottom line: teachers are constantly trying to find ways to prepare today’s students with tomorrow’s technology.”

(Lily Ziegler is writing a series of articles addressing the changing role of technology in the BHS classroom. This is her first installment. Check back in the coming weeks for more articles.)

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