- Associated Press - Saturday, April 2, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - The days of chalkboards and textbooks may be fading, but educators say students are experiencing more than ever before.

Thanks to evolving technology, Sue Schwoerer’s third-grade students at Olympia North Elementary School in Danvers have spoken face-to-face with an oceanographer via Skype.

“When I began teaching in 1989, the biggest piece of technology in the classroom was a film strip projector,” she said.

Teachers said technology is nothing new to students, especially younger children who have grown up tapping and swiping on tablets and smartphones.

“The students show me how to do things. I had to get over my attitude that I knew everything, and adjust to the changes,” said Schowerer who is retiring this year.



Schwoerer’s classroom isn’t alone.

Many school districts in Central Illinois, including Bloomington’s District 87, McLean County Unit 5 and University High School have embraced a one-to-one computing program. Students are able to use laptops provided by the district at school and at home for assignments.

“Knowing that all students have access to software and online resources enable teachers to incorporate a wider variety of learning activities than before,” said Jim Kurz, U High tech coordinator. “Moreover, it ensures that every student has access to school software and computer access outside of the regular classroom.

Some Unit 5 students are able to bring personal laptops and tablets to class thanks to a “bring your own device” program. District 87 also installed wireless routers in some homes to provide free Internet access for students to complete assignments at home.

While it’s common for college classes to run exclusively online, 30 states including Illinois offer virtual K-12 classrooms alongside typical brick-and-mortar schools. Some schools are even using the “flipped classroom” model, where students learn material at home online and come to the classroom to practice and apply the studied material.

A second-grade teacher at Olympia North, Tara Loyer, thinks technology will never replace human connection.

“Kids don’t come to school craving to use an iPad. They want to see their teachers and give us a hug. I hope as technology continues to develop, we don’t forget they’re just kids,” she said.

Loyer said her students can use online blogs to share work with parents, submit assignments, receive instant feedback through Google classrooms and use unique apps and programs to better understand material.

“I use counting beads, jumping and moving to teach math before we use technology,” said Olympia North kindergarten teacher, Laura Baner. “We don’t just say, ‘OK kids, we’re going to use technology now.’ We use it smoothly throughout the day.”

In January, the Regional Office of Education hosted a workshop at the McLean County Museum of History for Central Illinois teachers called “Teaching the 20th century in the 21st century.” More than 130 educators attended to learn how to successfully incorporate historical teachings while responding to the latest technology demands.

Richard Hughes, an associate professor of history at Illinois State University, was co-presenter and facilitator for the workshop.

“I don’t think teaching the 20th century is more difficult; there’s just a lot of important issues teachers have to discuss. They are learning more strategies to connect the past to the present,” said Hughes. “Good teachers are life-long learners.”

University High School teacher Kate Pole presented a session with Kurz on using C3 Framework to foster discussion in the digital age. The C3 Framework is a way of teaching social studies that prepares students for the challenges of college, career and civic life.

“Technology can be a boon or a bane in how students learn and participate in productive discussions. We explained how kids learn from watching adults on the news, such as the presidential election,” said Pole, a social studies teacher. “Students can use technology to evaluate credibility to have a higher level of understanding.”

Pole has been teaching for 16 years and said the internet has allowed her to take advantage of more teachable moments.

“We were discussing results from the primary in class and the fact that Rubio dropped out. I was able to instantly pull up his speech on YouTube and it sparked discussion,” said Pole. “I cannot remember how I taught before technology.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, https://bit.ly/1RUwymM

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Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com

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