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South embraces technological advances

By Annie Orenstein
Published: December 2009

When I think of overbearing technology used in the classroom, my mind goes straight to the scene in Disney Channel’s Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century when Zenon’s class is being taught by a hologram rambling on about President Chelsea Clinton. Even though we do not live in outer space and baby Clinton has yet to make it into the White House, some would say that technology in the classroom is growing at the same rate that technology itself is being developed.

Websites such as Moodle are great examples of this. Moodle, Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, is a free and open-source e-learning software platform, also known as a Course Management System, Learning Management System, or Virtual Learning Environment. It is designed to help educators create online courses with opportunities for interaction. Its open source license and modular design mean that people can develop additional functionality.

Smartboards are another example of this growing phenomenon. These flat screen monitors are networked with the teacher’s classroom computer and the school’s Internet connection. Interactive lessons in math, spelling, science, and other subjects can be put on screen for students to participate in. The boards use touch screen technology and in some cases, students are given handheld remote “clickers that act as controllers for answering questions presented on screen.

South is no exception to this blossoming trend. Whether it’s having all the assignments in one place so that they are easier to grade, or not handing out assignment sheets to be more environmentally friendly, there are incentives for teachers to open up to new technology.

The Modern Global Communities (MGC) curriculum this year is focused around alternative ways of helping the environment and becoming more sustainable. In the class it is normal for all of the assignments to be posted online, so as not to waste what’s left of the school paper supply.

Teachers in other courses are using websites to set up blogs to post assignments online. For example, my English class uses our class blog almost every week. Questions are asked about our current topic or book, and we respond using our own BlogSpot account. Not only is it easier for teachers to grade this way, but it also helps us gain ideas and perspectives from other peoples’ posts.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), written by Professor Wesley A. Fryer of the University of Texas at Austin, is an organization that shows teachers how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom setting.

Fryer believes “internet connectivity in educational settings provides opportunities for interactive exchange and collaboration between students living on other sides of town or the other side of the planet. These synchronous, real-time discussions using free software like ‘ËœSkype’ can tangibly expand the walls of the traditional classroom and engage students to write, share, and communicate with an authentic audience inaccessible just a few years ago.

English Teacher Jodi Daynard, who was recently absent from school for a brief period of time due to an injury, used Skype to teach classes in her absence.

Students describe the lessons as “normal, as she was just as interactive with them as she would be in a regular class setting.

So even though we might not be up to hologram status yet, the school’s effort to use technological resources has had numerous positive outcomes.

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