Technology is changing the way school children learn


Maura Wiebe tests the readiness of her digital projector in preparation for the start of classes in USD 410 on Thursday.

Fourth and fifth graders at Hillsboro Elementary School can look forward to booking their trip for a reading adventure this school year.

?For the first day, I have a passport sheet for the kids to fill out,? said Maura Wiebe, reading and fourth- grade homeroom teacher. ?We?ll take their mug shots and there is a passport on it and we?re going to hang those up for Parents Night.?

Coordinated with librarian Sandy Arnold, the reading theme, ?Book a Trip for a Reading Adventure,? is just one aspect of experiential learning that will be part of Wiebe?s curriculum for 2009-10.

Wiebe, a language arts teacher at USD 410 since 1995, said she uses multiple forms of technology to support learning in her classroom.

?I?m exploring a little bit more with the use of podcasts,? Wiebe said.

A podcast is Web-based audio broadcast accessed over the Internet. Last year, she used one last year of a scientist who explored under water that she got from iTunes.

The emphasis in today?s classroom is interactive or active or hands-on learning, Wiebe said. When she first started teaching, the traditional approach was passive, in which students learned by observing or listening to information.

?Good instruction today involves the teacher getting out of the role of being the lecturer in the front of the classroom,? she said. ?Teachers have become more of a facilitator.

?Education experts have found that students learn and retain information better by asking questions themselves and then researching and exploring those questions that they have, and then sharing with others in cooperative groups.?

One of major challenges for Wiebe is the time it takes to prepare her lessons and find and research the materials she uses in her class.

?It?s difficult to keep up with these technologies,? she said. ?There?s always new things evolving.?

Lesson preparation involves extra time outside of the school hours. For Wiebe, usually that means working evenings and Saturdays to be prepared for the next week.

?Kids? brains are wired differently than they were 25 years ago,? she said. ?So just for them to learn, we have to change the way we teach them. They are not kids who sit at a desk and take notes and listen to you lecture. That?s just not the way they learn anymore.?

Wiebe?s teaching methods incorporate reading activities, though not necessarily from textbooks. She uses magazines that are more current, she said; students can find that information using the Internet.

At their Technology Corner located behind Wiebe?s desk, students can use one of two laptops.

?They do activities that are related to reading?we?ve got games installed, keyboarding skills, reading tests,? she said.

A projector mounted from the ceiling projects her computer image on the SMART Board, an interactive whiteboard.

?You can touch and write on it,? Wiebe said. ?It acts like a computer screen.?

Wiebe can perform computer-mouse functions with her fingers or write with different colored pens that the board automatically detects. She also has access to a cart of 25 laptops that her students can use for in-class projects and research.

USD 410 has emphasized training its teachers in the use of technology hardware and software. Wiebe taught five sessions over four summers of computer training to teachers in the district. Most teachers have laptops.

Wiebe is the point person at HES for for those who have technology questions.

?People call all the time, ?I can?t get my screen turned on or my computer to work,?? Wiebe said.

Her fourth-grade students will be learning how to use the technology that will be more a part of their tools for learning than in earlier grades.

?It?s always fun to get a new batch of kids,? Wiebe said.

Each year, the chemistry in her class is different. She said she?ll spend the first couple of days learning to know her students and getting a feel for them.

?Then you can really start planning,? Wiebe said.

?Curriculum, in my opinion, should be a resource and not necessarily the primary material used in the classroom. A good teacher should be able to draw from all media.?

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