2012-06-07 / Schools

Mid’twn students embrace technology in classrooms

iPads, iPods, SMART Boards are new tools of education
BY NICOLE ANTONUCCI
Staff Writer


Elementary school students demonstrate how they use technology in the classroom during a technology expo sponsored by the Middletown Public School District and held at Middletown High School North on May 29. 
NICOLE ANTONUCCI Elementary school students demonstrate how they use technology in the classroom during a technology expo sponsored by the Middletown Public School District and held at Middletown High School North on May 29. NICOLE ANTONUCCI MIDDLETOWN — Students switched roles last week at Middletown High School North as parents sat at the small metal desks in brightly lit classrooms for a technology lesson from their own children.

The high school’s technology expo on May 29 not only highlighted the talents of the students in the Middletown Public School District, but also showcased the technology that is in use every day in the classroom.

“It’s important for the parents to see all the capabilities and all the possibilities of why technology is such an important part of our district,” Assistant Superintendent Jill A. Takacs said.

In the main expo area, held in the media center, visitors were introduced to the technology available to students and to watch demonstrations of new media tools including the iPad, Prezi, Skype and more.


Students demonstrate use of a SMART Board to teach a math lesson to a classroom full of adults during the technology expo at Middletown High School North on May 29. 
NICOLE ANTONUCCI Students demonstrate use of a SMART Board to teach a math lesson to a classroom full of adults during the technology expo at Middletown High School North on May 29. NICOLE ANTONUCCI In the classrooms down the hallway, students conducted 30-minute technology lessons on the iPad, iPhone, iPod and SMART Board, along with programs that included Microsoft Word and Prezi.

Students took the lead in demonstrations and lessons, which Takacs explained was the focus of the expo.

“We are technology immigrants, and our children are technology natives,” Takacs said. “Who better to teach us than our children with the technology that they use on a daily basis.”

Eighth-grader Daniel Enoch was enthusiastic about sharing the benefits of the iPad and began his demonstration by comparing the weight of the device to that of textbooks.


Ann Marie Norton watches a demonstration of video production during the Middletown Public School District’s technology expo. 
NICOLE ANTONUCCI Ann Marie Norton watches a demonstration of video production during the Middletown Public School District’s technology expo. NICOLE ANTONUCCI “Imagine holding this in a small gym bag as opposed to holding five to 10 binders, six to 10 textbooks in a giant backpack, along with your gym clothes, lunch and whatever other things you bring to school,” he said.

“An iPad and a good folio will replace all your folders and binders,” Enoch added. “I haven’t used my locker in six months because I have been able to carry every single thing I need on me at all times with iPad.”

Enoch explained that the device features several applications such as Safari and Google, which make research much easier.

For math class, students use an application called Bamboo Paper, which creates an infinite number of notebooks with different configurations of paper such as lined, graph, or music paper.

“You can never run out of paper,” he said.

Enoch said he has been able to use the device for class and to take notes, but to also write a thesis paper on “Star Wars,” for which he received a B-plus.

“It is one of the best things that could come to the classroom,” he said of the new technology.

Technology has not only changed the way students learn but has also transformed the role of the teacher, explained a group of high school students.

Julia O’Grady, Katie Rathigan, Conor Youncofski, Shannon Foley and Haley Sheehan explained the concept of a “flipped classroom.”

In a traditional classroom, the teacher will lecture about a particular lesson while students take notes. At home, the students do homework that was assigned, the group explained.

In a “flipped classroom,” students are able to learn at home, using YouTube videos, while in school they do the homework.

The high school students explained that in previous years, math class was more difficult to understand because the teacher would try to teach a whole lesson in 40 minutes and would not have time to answer any questions.

Being able to do the assignment in class enables students to work directly with the teacher as well as their classmates.

In addition, students have been able to use technology to directly interact with other students and teachers.

Cameron Dundas, Jaime Figueroa and Nicola Arcati taught how to use Google Docs, a free online tool available through Google.

While similar to Microsoft Office, Google Docs has additional features providing the ability to access email, chat with other students and work on the same project at the same time, the eighth-graders said.

“I can work on a presentation and can work on one slide while someone else in a different location can work on the other slide at the same time,” Figueroa said.

Students demonstrated how Google Docs using a SMART Board.

According to Susan King, of the Port Monmouth section of Middletown, the SMART Boards were provided by the PTA and have made a major difference in how lessons are taught.

“My daughter, Shannon, goes to the Port Monmouth Elementary School and in the year or two years that she has been there with the SMART Board, it’s amazing how she has learned,” King said. “She has learned so much and grown so much. Now she is out there, showing me and teaching other parents what she has learned.”

Jerilyn Crimaldi, of Middletown, expressed similar sentiments.

“Everything my children learn in school, they come home and want to do it on the computer at home,” Crimaldi said, adding that the technology has taken the hassle out of doing homework. “It’s fun for them.”

Both students and parents agreed that technology is not a distraction to students, nor is it being used to take advantage of a situation.

“Kids have always found ways to get out of doing work,” Enoch said. “It has gone from pulling pranks on the substitute teacher to doodling, to just talking with friends. [For] the people who work in class, the iPad is another tool for them. The people who goof off in class— even without the iPad — will continue to goof off.”

Barbara Torgerson, of Atlantic Highlands, explained that technology has become an integral part of the educational process for students.

“It is second nature to them,” Torgerson said. “It is the way the telephone was to me and not to my grandparents, the way the VCR was a commonplace thing for me and my mother couldn’t program it.

“This is what they know because it is part of their daily life,” Torgerson said, adding that in a few years textbooks will no longer be necessary. “My daughter discusses her work in school, discusses it with other classmates, saves it on Google Docs, comes home, edits it at home, Skypes her friends while she is editing her Google Docs to discuss later.

“It is all part of her educational process,” she said.

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