Tech Kids

Kids are growing up quickly in a digital age as schools work to keep up and prepare them for a high-speed future

By Melissa Tucker

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Technology has transformed the learning process for both teachers and students. Devices play a prominent role in today’s classrooms, and most schools in Arkansas have progressed to a 1-to-1 ratio of devices to students. 

These devices, primarily Chromebooks, are used to complete web-based assignments, said Casey Dailey with the Pulaski County Special School District. 

In her role as senior instructional technology facilitator, Dailey helps teachers implement new technology in their classrooms. 

“Chromebooks are Google-based, and they run off an operating system,” she said. “Google is taking over the world, really. College students are not using Microsoft Word anymore, they’re using Google Docs. It’s stored in your Drive, so with Word you have to save it to your device, and if you don’t have your device, you don’t have your work. Those days are gone because everything’s on the web now.”

Teachers, even as early as elementary schools, are using Google Classroom to connect students, parents and assignments. 

“When I taught in the classroom, I had to take 100 papers home and hope I didn’t lose them,” Dailey said. “With Google Classroom, everything is turned in electronically, and things are graded. You can grade electronically and give immediate feedback for parents, and parents can look and see what’s turned in, the date of the assignment, and what the grade was. It takes all that guessing away.”

In short, classrooms are becoming paperless. The amount of web-based learning material has grown so much it’s almost overwhelming, but the access for both teachers and students is unprecedented.

“Teachers don’t have to search for things in libraries or borrow from another teacher, and it’s given access to things that were not available before to students,” she said. “Students who will never travel outside of Arkansas can put on a pair of virtual goggles and look up and see the Eiffel Tower.”

Many districts also allow students to take Chromebooks home to facilitate learning outside of school. 

“Parents and students without computers at home were at a disadvantage before, but we provide them with a device, and they can take it home; and if they want to research something, they have access now,” she said. 

And the school’s Chromebooks have filters which keep students away from websites they shouldn’t see. 

“We can see what every student is doing, and that eases the parents’ minds,” she said. “Sometimes parents would rather the children get on their Chromebooks than their home devices because a lot of parents don’t know how to get in and block a device. It’s not an easy thing to do on your home network.”

Ultimately, the transition to digital learning helps prepare students for the work environments they will face in the future. 

“It’s really not fair in 2018 if you don’t prepare the students to be completely comfortable with digital interface,” Dailey said. “Children are digital natives now. They’ve grown up in an age where digital technology has always been there for them.”

Digi-tools:

Teachers have many different sites and apps at their disposal. Some help them connect with students and some with parents. Here’s a few tech options being used in Arkansas:

AR Books: Using the Accelerated Reader system, helps children and parents locate books on the child’s current reading level. After completing a book, students can take a quiz and earn points for it. Parents can download the BookScanner app to easily scan the barcodes on books to find out the reading level, quiz number and other information. 

CoolMath.com: A site that makes learning math into a game. 

Class Dojo: If your school participates, parents can download the Class Dojo app to contact teachers, see behavior reports and stay up-to-date on school activities, such as festivals, field trips or needs for extra items or volunteering.

Google Classroom: A place for students to complete and turn in assignments. Parents with sign-in information can see how assignments were graded and stay up-to-date on classwork. 

Prodigy: A virtual world where kids can explore and expand on their learning, and teachers can see reports of their acquired skills.