Local Teachers, Students Embrace Classroom Technology

December 13, 2010


LaSalle, an English teacher at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School in North Dighton, is one of the growing number of teachers using technology in the classroom every day.

One 2009 study by National Center for Educational statistics found 97 percent of teachers had one or more computers in the classroom every day and Internet access was available for 93 percent of computers in classrooms.

By way of a grant, LaSalle has a Smart Board in her classroom. A Smart Board is an interactive tool combining a computer screen and a dry erase board. The board allows a computer screen to be displayed on it, but also allows for writing on the board with special markers.

Along with the board, LaSalle also has what is known as a slate, a small handheld piece of equipment that allows her to write on the board from anywhere in the room.

With the slate, "it means you don't have to be at the board and can walk around and be near the kids," she said.

LaSalle said since having the board, all of her lessons are packaged into units and are taught using the board.

"It makes the lessons more interactive," she said, explaining how the class uses programs such as Google Earth to take virtual field trips to places they read about in literature.

LaSalle also makes her lessons more interactive through the use of remotes that correspond to the board. Every student is given a remote and uses it to respond to questions. She can ask a yes or no, or multiple choice question to the class and the students are able to respond.

LaSalle said the remotes have numbers assigned to them so she can see who is participating. Overall, she said, the remotes increase participation, especially from students who may not be as vocal in class as others. The Smart Board has also increased attentiveness, according to LaSalle.

"You have to appeal to your audience," she said.

Her audience is a classroom of teenagers, teenagers who spend a majority of their lives surrounded by technology. "They're the customers," she said, noting that if technology makes her job easier, "there is no sense fighting it."

A study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that nearly 94 percent of teens use the Internet, with 66 percent having access to the Internet at home.

The study also found that 86 percent of teens and 88 percent of online parents believe the Internet helps students do better in school; 80 percent of parents and 83 percent of parents of online teens agree.

While students are surrounded by technology every day, and with more teachers using technology in the classroom more frequently, it has become increasingly necessary for those in training to become teachers to be aware of the use of technology.

Jamie Long, of Holderness, N. H., a mathematics major and secondary education minor at Stonehill College in Easton, said she has seen technology used both in her own high school classrooms as well as in some of the classes she observed as a teacher-in-training.

"At the very least it made it more interesting and made more people pay attention," Long said.

Long said it is important to know how technology can be used in teaching. "I don't think technology is being embraced in the classroom as much as it could be," said Long.

New teachers find new ways of using technology that older teachers may not, she said.

Long, in a sample lesson plan, said she incorporated videos from YouTube offering instruction in solving mathematical problems.

But, Long said, technology is just a tool. "Technology should be used to enhance what the teacher can do, not replace it," she said.

Mary-Patricia Tranter, president of Coyle and Cassidy Memorial High School in Taunton said her entire job is now technology-based.

From marketing, to communicating with past and present students, to the daily operation of the school, Tranter said technology is used everywhere at Coyle and Cassidy.

She uses Facebook to communicate with alumni, and to advertise open houses, among other things. She uses a program called "School Reach," that allows her to record a messages on the phone or computer and send them to students' families.

"It gives you the opportunity to know what is going on if you don't have access to the building," said Tranter.

Tranter said math classes have used the Smart Board technology, and projection units are in every classroom. The teachers also use a program called Moodle, which gives teachers a site on which to put instructional tools and assignments.

"Because of technology in education, teaching and learning can happen 24/7," said Tranter.

Tranter said the school is working on becoming wireless and having students use e-readers or laptops in the classrooms instead of traditional textbooks.

"Teaching and learning has to occur in the environment kids are living and kids today are in a technological world," said Tranter.

As technology use is growing in classrooms, students are noticing the difference. David Pennini, a senior at Coyle and Cassidy, said technology is used in many of his classes. "Some use Power Points for every lesson, others only sometime," said Pennini. He said he has used various types of technology including a Smart Board in his Calculus class, to Photoshop in an English project.

Pennini said he feels technology helps to enhance the lessons, making them less boring, and making the classes run smoother.

"If they write notes on the board, you have to wait for them to finish writing, then you have to write it. With Power Point, its already prepared, so there's less down time," he said.

Jared Johnson, a junior at Taunton High School, said technology is used in his school as well.

"More so in the history field," he said.

His history teacher, Kristen Keenan, uses Power Points on a Smart Board, and their class discussions spring from her notes on the Power Point, said Johnson.

He said the Power Points are helpful in providing a guideline for the class, but it is during the class discussions that the real learning occurs.

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