Kansas Boosts Technology In Schools Statewide

After a successful pilot of a one-to-one classroom technology program in a Kansas school, the state plans to introduce more technology to all districts in January. The success of the pilot program convinced district leaders to start two months ahead of their expected March launch.

Teachers use a classroom management and social media application to communicate with students and schedule lessons for the day along with media consumption apps, learning games, and creation apps. In an interface that resembles Facebook, students can then pull up the day’s group reading assignment or look back on past lessons.

“If you use it the right way,” Palmer said of the iPads, “not as a space filler or a time filler, you can engage on their level.”

Michelle Palmer was one of the district’s first teachers to use the tablet computers in her classroom after receiving specialized training from Apple, the manufacturer of the tablets. She said that tablet computers get used alongside traditional media and creation tools.  Additionally, she said that when trying anything new, hiccups are expected. However, she and her students have had to learn to be flexible in the face of glitches, but it’s no different than trying anything else new in the classroom.

“At home they have technology, so why do we expect technology to take a back seat in the classroom?” she posed.

Spokesperson Yvonda Acker said that originally, the school district planned to introduce the tablet computers to the rest of the schools in March, but the success of the pilot program convinced district leaders to start earlier.

“That’s the thing we understand: you can’t just hand (the devices) to a teacher and walk away,” Acker said. “We’ve been going slowly, prepared for every step of the way.”

“That’s where a lot of [school] districts fall down. They get the devices and don’t do enough in-service [training],” said Jane Eberle, a professor of instructional design and technology at Emporia State University. “The follow up is extremely important.”

As Eberle put it, the many demands tugging at teachers’ time can leave them few opportunities to learn how to integrate new tech into their classes.

According to Christopher Guinn of The Morning Sun, to figure out how it can become an essential classroom tool, the chalk and slate of the modern world, teachers need time to get comfortable and familiar with the technology. Knowledge of when a book, or pen and paper, is superior for a particular lesson, is needed.

Eberle also said that teachers need to learn to assess students’ work when they are doing more than writing book reports in addition to becoming comfortable with the devices and applications.

“It’s fun to get new toys, but if you don’t know how to use them it’s kind of a waste of money,” Eberle, who was previously an elementary education teacher for 15 years in Manhattan, Kan., said.