As Amanda Jones stands next to a SMART Board at the side of her classroom Tuesday, a group of three smiling students are leading the lesson plan, temporarily, with an iPad.
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The trio of sixth-graders came up with a few questions on their group’s iPad, and when they were ready, they offered up their pop quiz to their classmates on another SMART Board in the front of the classroom.
In her class, each student has his or her own mini-“responder,” a unit about the size of a cellphone with an alpha-numeric keypad, where they can type in answers.
The answers were transmitted in real time to the board Jones was standing next to, telling her exactly when the students were done, and how her class was fairing on the quiz.
Welcome to the educational vanguard at Golden Oak Community School on Via Princessa.
“Having the iPads with groups of three or four students has been great. It’s really helped them learn as a team,” Jones said. “They all have to make sure they’re contributing to the final product, and so it’s been really awesome to watch them learn and grow with that.”
Jones has been teaching at the elementary school since its opening almost seven years ago, and was one of the teachers who took part in the pilot program toward the end of the last school year that first tried the new tools.
At Golden Oak, students and teachers are enjoying a technological synergy that isn’t found many places in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The plan is being utilized districtwide as part of upgrades for the Sulphur Springs School District use of recently approved bond money.
These are just a few of the benefits of the voter-approved Measure CK, which infused $72 million into the district in 2012.
“Everyone of our classrooms is equipped with technology that includes SMART responders, SMART Boards, interactive document cameras and overhead sound systems,” said Robert Nolet, superintendent of the Sulphur Springs School District. “We made a commitment to voters regarding CK that we were going to address the technology needs of the district and we’ve been pleased to be able to do it in that timeframe.”
It’s also part of the state’s new curriculum goal for classrooms everywhere, with California’s adoption of the Common Core Standards Initiative.
“Common Core is really something that is going to dictate that students have an opportunity to interact with technology within their curriculum,” Nolet said.
The technology came in waves, from the first step, which was creating a new wireless network that could support so many mobile devices — administrators are hoping to have a 3-to-1 student-to-iPad ratio by the time their three-year plan is complete — to classrooms like Jones’, which is about as cutting edge as it gets.
The installation and support has been a frenetic, fast-paced effort by Wes Burcham, director of the Technology Services Department, and his two-person department of Dean Elliott nand Sharon Murray.
They implemented new software, networks and equipment for the district’s 240 classrooms from April to August, which was “quite a project,” Burcham said.
“We’re constantly expanding and we almost doubled the number of wireless devices since the first week of April,” he said.
Of course with all this new gear, there’s been plenty of learning opportunities for the district’s educators, too, said Josh Randall, director of professional development, technology and categorical programs for SSSD.
Randall has led the effort to train and implement all of the new gadgets, which has included countless hours of meetings, some voluntary, which has been embraced by the school’s teachers.
Randall holds the meeting on staff development days, and voluntary seminars throughout the year offer 25 spots at a time that fill up as fast as he can offer them.
“It’s like handing someone the keys to a Ferrari,” Golden Oak Principal Gayle Abril joked. “You want to make sure they can drive a stick shift.”
The district has also hosted educators from as far away as the Burbank Unified School District, and several local districts, to demonstrate their innovation.
The new technology not only allows for unique peer-led educational opportunities, such as the sixth-graders’ self-administered quiz, it also allows the teacher more classroom mobility, Randall said.
“It really gives the teacher freedom to teach from wherever they’re at,” he said, as Jones moved around the room with a microphone attached, simultaneously broadcasting the lesson in stereo sound.
It kept Rikki Fayne’s kindergarten class in rapt attention, as the students eagerly raised hands for an opportunity to draw across the number line and demonstrate addition and subtraction.
The feedback from the parent-teacher organization has been very positive, also, Abril said.
“It really shows,” the principal said, “if you have a vision and the community support for funding, what you can do.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News