Technology continued to open new doors for teachers in the Monett School District. Melody Paige, who for the third year served as technology instructional specialist, updated the R-1 Board of Education on her efforts in helping faculty use technology more effectively.
The introduction of laptop computers for all the high school students in January represented a major shift in using computers for education, Paige reported. In December, 2011, a survey was conducted of high school teachers. Half considered computers "somewhat important" in their teaching, and 46.4 percent considered them very important.
By the end of the school year, 29.6 percent considered computers "somewhat important," and 70.4 answered "very important." No teacher considered computers "not very important" any longer.
Use of technology in the classroom also showed a major change. In December 2011, 36 percent of students said they used technology in the classroom daily. In May, the number jumped to nearly 96 percent.
A little over half of the teachers used the Internet for research and lesson planning in December 2011, compared to 70 percent in May. About a third used computers to help students better understand concepts in December 2011. That number rose to over half by May. The biggest increase came in grading papers or assessing students using computers, which rose from 14 percent in December 2011 to over 40 percent in May.
How students use computers also changed. The number of students who said they work in groups on school work using computers rose from less than one in five to over half. The number using computers to write went from alost 40 to 78 percent.
The number of students using computers to present information in the classroom doubled by the end of the year. Students using computers for a project or a paper outside of class time went from 26 to 53 percent by the end of the school year.
Around three quarters of the teachers found their students were highly engaged with technology in classroom activities. Only 5 percent believed technology was hindering students from understanding concepts in the curriculum.
"All teachers at some point during this three-year period have had some type of technology training expectation," Paige said. "For the 2011-12 year, new teachers to the district were expected to participate in 18 hours of district-provided technology professional development. For second year tech teachers, they were expected to participate in 18 hours of training."
Paige and Lauralie Powell worked with the teaching in a variety of ways, from discussions, co-teaching lessons and project assistance. Teachers could receive instruction in 61 technology topics, including the summer technology retreat. A total of 838 faculty members received training during the year, adding up to 106 hours offered.
Administrators continued their positive perspectives on the higher use of technology.
"I have seen creativity from students and staff increase," said David Steward, high school principal. "I also believe that students are more engaged in their own learning than before."
"I am seeing more students engaged with the technology, particularly the iPads," said Peg Bryan, intermediate school principal. "Teachers are starting to turn the technology over to the students, which is a really good thing."
"The technology specialists' flexibility allowed teachers to meet to troubleshoot on days that the technology integration specialist was not assigned to that building," said Dr. Jay Apostol, middle school principal. "That speaks volumes on the importance of the technology in the classroom."
Paige told board members the higher emphasis on technology has passed initial hurdles and was now received with enthusiasm.
"The Monett teachers are doing a terrific job on their journey of integrating technology into their day-to-day teaching practice," Paige said. "It is a process and one that will continue to evolve as new technologies are created and adapted."
Seventy percent of the teachers preferred to have face-to-face technology sessions to learn how to incorporate using new instructional techniques. More than half preferred individualized conversations, modeling and team teaching sessions with a technology specialist.
Paige encouraged all teachers to identify personal goals for technology integration and training goals.
Mistakes to avoid
Paige concluded her presentation by sharing a list of mistakes teachers typically make when using technology. The easiest mistake was putting technology ahead of the lesson, which loses the point of the instruction. Students should be encouraged now to "publish" their work, rather than "handing in" assignments.
Paige cautioned against buying into the theory that children who have grown up with technology, the so-called "digital natives," find using computers and technology concepts much more easily. Students learn in different ways and need to be approached as individuals.
Other points cautioned against failing to back up data, thinking everything will go well the first time, refusing to change teaching styles and failing to model good digital citizenship for the students.
The biggest mistake, Paige said, is simply not using technology. On each of these points, the technology specialists wanted to help teachers overcome their stumbling blocks and use technology effectively.