Education Guide     K-12    

Digital Gadgets Your Child is Using in School



A peek at some of the software used in your child's school

Hudson Valley schools are going digital.  When your child tells you about their day and says they went up to the Smart™ Board, will you know what they’re talking about?  Blackboards, erasers and chalk dust are almost a thing of the past as the digital world becomes a mainstay in the classroom. We’ve asked a few local school districts about how they’re integrating technology into their curriculum, and the results they’ve seen.

Computers for research projects
“In Monroe-Woodbury, beginning in first grade, we require all students to complete a research paper where at least part of the research must be obtained from electronic sources,” says Dr. Charlene Kelemen, director of elementary education for the district’s Central School District Education Center. Students are exposed to computer literacy courses, allowing them to develop word processing skills, to compose on the computer, save their work, and then send it in to the teacher.”

Virtual field trips
Students are also citing electronic media when doing research and when it’s time to submit the work for grading. “Often times, high school teachers will have students e-mail their work to them versus paper and pencil,” Kelemen explains. Though schools are becoming more dependent on the computer, the expectation remains that learning is more than content flashing on a screen. Virtual field trips can provide, for example, a live tour of the San Diego Zoo and an interview with a staff zoologist. She adds, “It’s a way for us to connect with the world outside the brick and mortar….it opens the world up to kids.”

Interactive white boards

The interactive white board is almost a staple in many US schools with its ability to have students interact with learning materials presented on a large electronic screen. The children walk up to the board, point to areas to make words appear, or to make guesses for right answers, says Stacey Platt, a third grade teacher and SMART™ Board trainer at G.W. Krieger Elementary School in Poughkeepsie. She adds, “The interactive white board is the way of the future and will do away with chalkboards and whiteboards. Not only are they visually appealing to visual learners but there’s an auditory and tactile component to it as well.” Countries, like Great Britain, Platt notes, have made it part of their federal education law that every classroom have one. 
The advantages of the SMART™ Board are clear. Reports show that kids pay attention better, want to be called on, are eager and will raise their hands. Response systems, called clickers, are handheld electronic wireless devices to registers kids’ answers to questions posed on the board. The teachers find the concept exciting which translates over to the children.

Software programs your child may be using

New software allows students and teachers to organize and share work files. The overall performance of students is improving along with the increase of technology usage in the classroom, plus it’s helping teachers save time. “Dropbox” allows users to share and organize photos, videos, and documents, and “Google Docs” manages spreadsheets, presentations, surveys, and more. According to Jeff Fernandez, co-founder and CEO of Grovo Learning, a website offering educational tutorials, says he’s seen students’ grades go up twenty to twenty-five percent.  Teachers who use sites like these can also save precious semester time by streamlining their grades, worksheets and tests.

Some technology can enhance the imagination and bring out your inner artist. “Aviary is like Photoshop,” says Fernandez, “except it's free and a wonderful tool for drawing and creating images online.”

HV Parent expert, Dr. Paul Schwartz, discusses kids and computers.

E-books

To save money, schools are turning to e-books. “Students can log on and read the chapter without lugging a fifteen-pound biology textbook,” says Kelemen.  Many classes are making “podcasts,” creating their own movies, and are interacting with others long distance via video chats. Students at the Krieger school engage in video chats with other classes in South Carolina and Kentucky and have created videos for pen pals.

PowerSchool 

Parents can get instant information about their children’s attendance and specific grade performance via PowerSchool, a software program used by the Monroe-Woodbury school district.  “For grades six through twelve, parents can log on and get attendance, end of semester and quarter grades, quiz and homework grades and find out when the next exam is,” Kelemen explains.

iPads

“The brand new device, the iPad, is starting to feature more in the classroom, and teachers and administrators are being paid to go to workshops to learn how iPads can be an instructional tool,” said Paska. Parents can also get instructional guides or how-to manuals online to stay savvy with these new tools. Computing devices are getting smaller and more portable each day which presents a unique challenge. “There are apps for teaching reading and math skills, and there’s potential for students to interact with each other through game apps aside from Scrabble and Tic-Tac-Toe,” says Paska. 

Don’t be afraid to walk into a local electronics store or visit your child’s classroom and ask questions. “The more education you have about how products work as a parent, the more effective you can teach that technology and avoid potential pitfalls,” says Fernandez. 

But, there’s still something to be said about parent-child interaction.  Although it’s a glamorous world, the computer is not the answer to everything. Kelemen says, “There is no substitute for sitting with your child at the end of the day and reading with them because there is an emotional connection that no electronic advancement can replace.”

Jamie Lober writes frequently on pediatric health topics and womens’ issues. Reach her at Jamie@getpinkpower.com.