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Newton classrooms becoming more sophisticated with technology

COVINGTON -- Gone are the days of a teacher standing in front of a blackboard with chalk-stained fingers.

Today, teachers spend their day teaching from more interactive media, such as computers, ActivBoards or even iPads.

"About 70 percent of our classrooms have ActivBoards, and we are constantly adding more," said Gary Shattuck, director of technology with the Newton County School System.

ActivBoards are interactive whiteboards that are mounted at the front of classrooms and largely take the place of a traditional chalkboard.

Shattuck said NCSS started adding ActivBoards in 2005 when two were purchased at Indian Middle School.

"By the end of that spring, the buzz started among the middle schools and they started buying ActivBoards with Title I funds and it spread to other schools," he said.

Shattuck said the addition of ActivBoards to the schools progressed steadily until two years ago when NCSS made a systemwide initiative to use Title I money to buy just ActivBoards.

"Then there was a major push and we added about 500 boards in the last two years," he said.

At the same time, schools are also adding other technology to their classrooms, such as computers and iPads.

Shattuck said 15 to 18 schools have iPads. He said some schools have only a few, while others, like Newton High School, have bought several for students to use.

At Fairview Elementary, second-grade students use iPads to Skype with fellow second-graders at Monroe Primary School in Monroe, Ohio.

During an interview posted on YouTube, Fairview teacher Carol Jean said her students and the second-graders in Ohio read, "Magic Tree House: Midnight on the Moon" and then discussed the story with each other over Skype.

"This is about as excited as I have ever seen any kids when it comes to listening to a class book," Jean said. "With this book, everybody was excited about listening, and I would say 95 percent of the class was very happy to sit down and write their thoughts."

The next project for the class, Jean said, is to read a book and then Skype with the author.

Shattuck said he is pleased with how schools are integrating technology into their curricula.

"Fairview is doing a fantastic and innovative job with their technology," he said.

Shattuck said purchasing technology is largely up to the individual schools' budgets. His budget is primarily used to replace old computers, purchase or update software or to fund maintenance contracts.

While individual schools have some flexibility how to spend money in their respective budgets, Title I schools have much more money to put toward technology.

Newly built schools, too, are fully outfitted with the latest technology. Flint Hill Elementary School, which opened this school year, is entirely wireless, and has interactive boards in each classroom, as well as iPads, iPods, netbooks, voting machines and laptops.

Sales tax dollars, which are used primarily for construction of new schools, could be used in the future to help improve technology at all the county's schools, Shattuck said.

He said it's difficult to plan long-term for technology needs simply due to the fact that technology changes so much. He said when he was developing his technology plan a couple of years ago, he wasn't that familiar with the iPad.

"I struggle to develop a three-year plan and have that plan remain relevant for three years," Shattuck said. "I try to develop a plan broad enough in scope to allow for new innovations in technology so that we're not tied to something that is too old."

Comments

bigmike 2 years, 10 months ago

I go to Alcovy and most of the teachers don't even use their activeboards. And a lot of teachers their don't even have them but want them. Smh.

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