WDC technology provides student engagement, accessibility in the classroom
Elementary teachers have access to Promethean boards, which are similar to a giant, interactive TV screen. Thompson said the boards are the “most basic way” to teach lessons with technology.
WADENA — From chalkboards to slide projectors and televisions being in the classroom, students now also learn with iPads, laptops and interactive whiteboards.
Wadena-Deer Creek second grade teacher Lindy Thompson jumped into teaching with technology during her student teaching in Minneapolis and throughout her first teaching position at WDC while navigating the pandemic’s distance learning. Though, her first love of technology came while growing up with video games, computer games, making videos and editing photos. She was one of eight new teachers at the elementary and three at the middle/high school who started in the 2020-21 school year.
How do you use technology in the classroom?
Elementary teachers have access to Promethean boards, which are similar to a giant, interactive TV screen. Thompson said the boards are the “most basic way” to teach lessons with technology. Students can view the lessons and one another’s work clearly on the board.
On a recent Wednesday in Thompson’s classroom, students switched out their shoes from recess and pondered their favorite season—which they then noted on the Promethean board. They pulled out their whiteboards to create a bar graph and some students became classroom famous when their work was selected for the board. Thompson regularly takes pictures of several students’ work and then displays them on the board for students to discuss.
These technology tools offer increased student engagement, Thompson said, like sharing their excitement over measuring distances and creating bar graphs because it all involved a robot. They’re constantly trying new activities and experimenting while learning the concepts of English, math, science and social studies.
Thompson loves incorporating technology throughout the day, from lessons to holiday scavenger hunts. The scavenger hunts tuck in lessons while students are watching funny videos, searching for clues and solving math problems to earn their next clue. The students were shocked at such fun ways of learning math, Thompson said.
What lessons do students learn through technology?
Students have assignments for all of their subjects on the iPads. Every WDC student in K-12 has an iPad or Chromebook.
“The iPad will be used as a high performance textbook and resource learning tool for students and faculty,” a Pioneer Journal article remarked in 2012. With specific software powered through the Promethean board, teachers can also share lessons between grade levels. “It makes working as a team easier as well,” Thompson noted.
The classroom is geared towards connecting with different learners by providing skills groups and audio options through their iPads. One of the main tools students use independently is Seesaw, which includes video lessons and activities. Thompson said working with the video allows students to engage and interact better. Audio for reading test questions is also available.
“For kids that maybe can’t read on their own rather than having to devote some of their mental energy to reading the question they’re able to listen to the direction on the app and then solve the problem on their paper without worrying about what the question said,” Thompson explained about a recent math test students completed. “I think that helps because kids are able to work at their own pace then.”
Seesaw can create groups of students based on their skills, such as the words and patterns they’ve come to understand with a word sort. Thompson said the word sort boosts students' skills where they need it instead of offering students the same spelling list.
“If you were to walk into my room, it would look like they’re all doing the same thing but the activities are specifically created for them,” Thompson said. The elementary school started using Seesaw school-wide during distance learning, and the middle/high school predominantly used Google Classroom.
While the groups aren’t the same as direct instruction, Thompson said the “differentiation abilities”' allow her to do more for each student compared to paper worksheets. Students also review lessons with game apps like Kahoot and Blooket.
“It creates multiple me’s, and to be able to have myself in multiple places at once has just made a huge difference with how we run the classroom,” Thompson said. “It just dramatically changes student learning and student engagement and just the activities we’re able to do in the room is so much more.”
Students still work in groups, play games, do worksheets and work on their handwriting too.
“For break time, I don’t allow the kids to go on the iPads just for fun,” Thompson noted. “They are a tool here at school and we are using them just for our academic work.”
What are some of the challenges with technology?
Teachers are constantly flexing to changed schedules and student needs, and working with technology requires planning and re-planning for when technology decides to disconnect. Thompson said having a student iPad not pull up the correct activity or social studies slides disappearing are “occasional hiccups”—though, these instances are worth the many benefits.
“It’s really finding that balance and thinking about what’s going to benefit them (students) versus what’s too much,” Thompson said about technology use in the classroom.
The winter’s e-learning days also meant a barrier to learning for families who don’t have access to the internet. The e-learning days, which totaled five this school year , were “really frustrating” for some families, Thompson said. The school board will review an e-learning plan prior to next winter along with comments from families and staff through a survey the district plans to send out.
While at school, students are “incredible” with their technology knowledge and growing through their many educational possibilities.
“They’re able to do so much more and accomplish so much more, and I truly believe they’re learning so much more because of the iPads that we have and how they’re able to get what they need in a way that’s accessible to them,” Thompson said.