Classrooms demand new technology

Research is done on the Internet. Class presentations are made via Microsoft PowerPoint. Even the standard blackboard has been replaced by a Digital Smart Board.

Gone are the days of the film strip and mimeograph. School kids these days want PowerPoint and speedy online connections, and school districts in Alabama are hussling to keep up with the kids' demands, reports Daily Home Online.

"They are more digitally attuned," said Randy Roberts, education technology specialist for the Talladega County School System. "We’re trying to reach out to our audience. (Technology) allows the teachers to be more engaging, and it’s more interesting to the students." 

The traditional chalkboard has been replaced by the digital smart board, an interactive white board that anything written on it can be transferred and saved in a computer via Bluetooth wireless technology.

"It makes learning become three-dimensional," said Perry Phillips, assistant principal at Winterboro School, one of the county schools using the Smart Board. "Say you’re working on the area of a rectangle," he said. "It allows you to go inside the rectangle. It comes to life, rather than just looking at four lines."

Students also are also using small handheld devices used for field work, scavenger hunts and short quizzes. The answers are then transferred back to the teacher.

Just because students are busily typing away at their laptops doesn't mean the teacher isn't paying attention to the individual student. Since all the students have online access, there are usual safety issues. Kim Knight, an instructor at Pittard School of Technology said she has ordered a software package that will allow her to monitor, from her desk, what students are looking at on their computers.

"I can restrict an individual student from the Internet, or I can send them messages like, ‘Get back to work,’" she said.

So where does the funding for all these techno-gadgets come from? Many schools in poorer areas take advantage of the federal eRate program, which gives school discounted rates for Internet service. There are also state, federal and private grants, along with community foundation support, school can get the funding they need.

Educators are  beginning to realize the students, in order to be prepared for the future to be adept at these technologies and the students want them.

"Technology is spreading like wildfire," said D.J. Ellison, who attends Knight’s business technology class at Pittard. "Keeping technology in the classroom simply helps prepare us for life. This class will help prepare us for the real world. And to make it today, most people need to know how to operate a computer."