It’s amazing to see how technology is changing the way educators teach. While walking around her social studies class, Erin Walker, pausing occasionally to help students find information or answers.
Laptop cords crisscrossed the floor. Walker’s law students, some with headphones in their ears, focused on their computer screens, researching a case to determine how they’d decide the matter.
Requirements for the assignment were posted in a Google Doc. When finished, students would post their decisions on the class wiki.
Central York School District has always had technology available in the classroom, said Walker, a social studies teacher at the high school.
But in the past, she may have had to plan a lesson and then hope she could procure the laptop cart for three days to do it.
“Now our biggest concern is, are there enough outlets? Did everyone bring their chargers?” she said, noting her room’s been rearranged to accommodate the technology.
Many students have more technology in their hands now, whether the school gave it to them or allowed them to bring it from home.
And schools and teachers are working to make sure it’s being used to enhance their classrooms.
Meeting student needs
Last year, Central York piloted iPads for every freshman. This year, the high school gave all students some kind of device, said Carol Roth, an instructional technology coach.
Freshmen and sophomores have iPads, and the district had enough Apple laptops to give one to each junior and senior.
The devices go through a school filter whether students have them at home or in school, and restricted sites might vary depending on the time of day. For example, Facebook is blocked during the day but might be available after hours, Roth said.
Lisa Turner, a high school English teacher, said the technology helps her more easily adapt instruction for students’ different needs.
On a recent day, her 21st Century Literacy Skills students worked on research projects using their iPads. They had several options for what form it would take: a blog, a newsletter, or a website, for example.
She can use My Big Campus, which students described as a sort of Facebook for schools, to add videos or articles for the students to access or discuss.
They’re so used to using the iPads that a student asked why she was handing something out on paper one day, she said.
It’s been pretty seamless, she said, though students aren’t necessarily using them 100 percent of the time.
Professional development is critical, she said, and it’s sometimes a matter of trying new things.
“You have to be a risk-taker,” Turner said.