News ID: 234430
Published: 0829 GMT November 18, 2018

Technology changing how Decatur students learn

Technology changing how Decatur students learn
Austinville elementary students Taliyah Robinson and Pedro Salgado use school-issued Chromebooks to answer questions during class.

Technology investment in Decatur City Schools — a school system located in the city of Decatur in Alabama, the US, and is home to seven of Alabama's International Baccalaureate schools — is changing how students learn and teachers teach.

“My initial thought is that the Chromebook would be another thing to keep up with, but it has totally changed how I am learning, and I like it,” said Decatur High junior Lizzy Truitt, reported.

After almost a decade of planning, the school system completed its one-to-one initiative this year by providing Chromebook laptops for every high school student. One-to-one means every student in grades 4-12 has a school-issued computer they can use for educational purposes in school and at home. Computers for K-3 students are available when they are in school.

Supervisor of technology, Emily Elam, said traffic on the school system’s server has increased 50 percent, mostly during class time on educational platforms.

Since August, she said, there have been more than 4,000 unique logins, each representing a different student, on Canvas, a learning management system where students can take tests and do homework assignments.

“A lot of colleges use this, so our students are going to have a leg up,” Elam said.

“This platform is available in every school.”

Bridgett Hayes, a fourth-grade teacher at Austinville Elementary who has worked in the school system 27 years, said she was scared and thought about retiring when the school system talked about going all digital.

“I freaked out because I didn’t think I would be able to do it,” she said.

Now, she embraces the technology and has changed how she instructs. Her preference is Nearpod, an interactive classroom that gives her access to more than 7,000 lessons. She said the switch from paper to digital teaching has been phenomenal.

“I don’t have to worry about students losing homework because the majority of what we do is on the computer,” Hayes said.

She said computers also allow every student to be engaged in the classroom. When they were studying water recently, one of the questions Hayes gave to students was: “Where do you think water spends most of its time during its water cycle?”

Students submitted answers electronically, and Hayes could see the answers as well as who did not respond.

“With the change, students and teachers have access to more resources and I can give students more up-to-date information,” she said.

Terri Banks, another fourth-grade teacher at Austinville, said when students miss school, teachers can send them their homework and schedule tests through Google Classroom. She said the software allows teachers to grade papers instantly and give feedback to students and parents.

Banks and Hayes said every computer is equipped with GoGuardian, which allows teachers to see and manage what students are viewing.

“If they are somewhere they shouldn’t be or on the computer too late at night, I can shut them out,” Hayes said.

Since 2011, the district has spent almost $10 million on computers and infrastructure upgrades, but school officials said there is still a digital divide in Decatur because many students do not have access to high-speed internet when they leave school.

Education Superhighway, a nonprofit group focused on making sure public schools have access to the internet by 2020, issued a report last year showing that school districts since 2013 have narrowed the gap for sufficient internet access in schools. But this will not eliminate the digital divide that exists when students leave school, the report stated.

“We’ve had this problem,” Hayes said.

Truitt and Olivia Coggins, also a Decatur High junior, said some students were apprehensive when the district banned cellphone use in class after issuing every student a Chromebook.

“We have adjusted, and I think everyone is embracing the change and sees the benefits,” Coggins said.



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