During the last two weeks of October, I traveled alongside future educators, business leaders, school administrators and policy makers to observe how technology is being implemented in Georgia’s schools. The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education hosts the annual bus trips to encourage the sharing of knowledge and best practices focusing on a different theme each year. We visited five schools for each leg of the two-part trip, and it was interesting to see how technology was being used as a tool for learning from the elementary level to the technical college level.
I saw students collaborating on assignments through programs and applications such as Google docs and Edmoto, engaged learning, teachers trying to keep up and young students navigating through websites. On the contrary, I also saw students learning through their textbooks and through building models and projects with their hands. As amazing as it was to see students embracing their technology, I could also see how it was distracting and at times frustrating. Not every student is going to learn at the same pace whether by textbook or netbook, and it’s important for teachers and school administration to work with students and their technology to maximize the learning the experience for all.
Hall County Schools
The World Language Academy is a dual language immersion charter school that teaches students English and Spanish. The school recently began implementing Chinese language instruction, and in the above photo, students in another classroom within the school video conference in with another for Chinese class.
In another class, each student is able to work on a laptop for daily use on general assignments. Many students are asked to complete or build assignments through various online programs and platforms. I was impressed with how well students stayed on task with their work.
Barrow County Schools
SMART Boards are used daily in this Westside Middle School band classroom to help students play more accurately. Various programs will show how far off a student’s playing is by beat or by note. The program also “grades” each song the students practice and perform. The use of technology stretches far into music and the arts, and it has come a long way since the use of a simple metronome.
In the same science class, students use the iPad to search for information online on what is being taught. While I thought this to be helpful to the students not participating in the experiment directly, I found that some were distracted by non-relevant apps on their iPads. With each student having their own tablet, you run the risk of students not working on classroom material.
Clarke County Schools
During one particular second grade class, students were split up into several workstations. Some worked with the teacher at the SMART Board, others worked alone on laptops and the rest worked in pairs without any technology. I really liked this model as it gave students a break away from their technology to work with others. The use of technology among young students is extraordinary and impressive, and it’s necessary to build life-long learners that will be college and career ready, however, I don’t believe it should be the only tool used to learn at such a young age.
Rockdale County Schools
Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology serves 228 students grades 9-12. While technology is infused with every subject and programs such as AutoCAD are used frequently, there is a healthy balance of learning with the traditional textbook.