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INSIDE OUR SCHOOLS: Technology changes teaching, learning

Classrooms contain more vital tools than they did in bygone days

Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 12:10 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 11:47 a.m. CST

American educator, psychologist and philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952) said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” 

The fast paced, ever-changing world of technology has impacted education in ways that are often difficult to comprehend. This article will highlight various types of technology and educational applications used at Morris Community High School. 

Our district plan guides our efforts at helping students prepare for their future through the use of technology that expands educational opportunities.

I graduated from Dwight Township High School in 1980, and feel fortunate to have been taught by some of the best teachers I have ever known. Aside from a team-taught history class, my experiences in the high school classroom were very traditional — chalkboards, overhead projectors, reel-to-reel film projectors, mimeograph copies that produced “toxic” vapors, etc. My only “computer” class was a basic programming class where we spent four weeks producing punch cards that, once sorted, produced a single sentence.

Today’s students live in a world of instant communication, information, social networks and immediate feedback.

Classrooms of 2011 in some ways resemble the classrooms of 1978 — rows of desks, a teacher’s desk, clock, intercom speaker and an American flag. A closer look, however, reveals how technology has changed the way teachers teach and students learn.

Dry erase marker boards, LCD projectors, smart boards and laptop computers are now vital tools in the educational process. Teachers input grades, attendance and classroom notes into our PowerSchool data management system that allows parents and student’s real time online access to grades and other important information.

Craig Ortiz, Cindy Shannon, Brenda Edwards and Samantha Noto use Promethean active boards to teach math in an interactive fashion. Portable clickers allow students to answer questions electronically. Teachers instantly gather student feedback to check for understanding and re-teach concepts when necessary.

Dave Auwerda uses Google Docs that allow students to work collaboratively on projects. He can create online quizzes, share documents and access students’ work online. Mr. Auwerda also uses a social networking-type educational site called Edmodo.This site provides a forum for classroom discussions and a place to provide content material for students absent from class.

Science teacher Rob Wallon is among a growing number of teachers using a classroom set of the iPod Touch. The iPod technology allows instant Internet access, curriculum applications and excellent review materials. The eClicker application allows the teacher to ask questions and gather instant feedback. Vocabulary apps allow students to study and learn at their own pace. Our staff is working hard at learning new and innovative ways to use technology to deliver instruction.

Tech director J.D. Morrison has been successful at building on the technology foundations established by retired Associate Principal Tom Talarico. We are working hard to improve our four computer labs and establish wireless Internet access districtwide. We have also purchased threemobile computer labs and transitioned to a new student data management system. We continue to find ways to upgrade our Internet speed, capacity and reliability in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Modifications to our website by retired teacher Joe Thomas, and staff members Gail Janz and Corri Trotter provide the community with an instant link to the “happenings” at MCHS. This year we implemented an instant alert system that notifies students and parents of important announcements via phone calls and eventually text messages. These upgrades are designed to provide accurate information in a timely manner.

The main objective of Morris Community High School is to prepare students for whatever challenges and opportunities they encounter next. The jobs and careers some of our students will pursue don’t even exist. All schools must do a better job at becoming more agile and responsive as technology changes and impacts the way we learn, interact, work and live.

I have enjoyed watching my daughter, Rachel, complete her Joliet Junior College English 102 research paper and find it amazing at how different the process is from “back in the day.” Gone are the days of the carefully numbered, sorted and categorized note cards sprawled out on the kitchen table. The trip to Kaisers five and dime store to get that perfect plastic folder to place the paper in for turn-in day are gone. Instead, her experience is that of reading online research, occasional chats with the instructor, and an email of the finished product before midnight.

The “tomorrow” John Dewey spoke of is upon us and it is our job to prepare students the best we can “today”.

For more information on Morris Community High School check us out at morrishs.org. Contact J.D. Morrison at jmorrison@morrishs.org for more information on our technology plan and initiatives.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This is the first in a week-long series of columns written by Morris school leaders discussing technology. In recent months, similar series of articles have focused on other topics pertinent to local education. In January, curriculum was the focus; in February, district finances were addressed; in March, they shared student and staff achievements.

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