Kraig Sproles walks a fine line these days. As principal of Metzger Elementary School in Tigard, Oregon, he continually straddles new and old ways of thinking about education. He’s passionate about doing away with antiquated teaching methods, like hard-copy textbooks and keyboarding classes, in favor of technology-driven systems and approaches, but he’s also quick to admit that change won’t happen overnight. Thanks to a voter-approved technology bond, the school has made leaps and bounds during its first year with tablets.
All of Metzger’s 5th
grade students have their own iPads, and all of their 4th
graders have their own laptops. 3rd
grade classrooms have access to a lab with 35 desktop computers, and for four months out of the year, each 3rd
grader had their own iPod touch. Kindergarten, 1st
grade classrooms have access to laptop carts (Sproles is currently writing a grant to get 1st
graders their own iPads).
Sproles argues that the traditional lab model, in which students work on a computer for an hour or two a week, is severely outdated. Adults don’t use technology that way, so why should children? The future of education is 1:1 devices, where a child has a tablet or laptop right beside them, ready to be used whenever and however they choose.
So what types of things do Metzger’s students do on their devices during the school day? They record themselves reading on their iPod touches to help pronunciation; they read passages with embedded links to additional resources; they use apps like Math Blaster and Mindcraft. They create videos and record audio over the top explaining how they got their answers; they send vocabulary words back and forth from classrooms; they write music and create music videos. They share photos they’ve taken of things they’re studying; they actively engage with the video they’re watching by answering questions on their device; they listen to audiobooks to increase comprehension.
For those unaccustomed to this level of technology in the classroom, it’s rather awe-inspiring. Technology is infiltrating schools quickly and rather organically. There’s not much room for trial and error, and as we all know, hindsight is 20/20. Sproles tells the story of how two years ago, Metzger replaced all the desktop computers in the lab with new ones– a decision he now considers a mistake. Knowing what he knows now, he would have used that money to get the students mobile devices.
These stories of trial and error will continue to be commonplace as new technologies surface and schools decide how best to implement them in the classroom. Sproles maintains that it’s important to show the community that technology in the classroom makes a difference in students’ education. It is, after all, the community who is footing the bill and whose children are being affected.
A world of potential lies in implementing 1:1 in the classroom, but a measured increase in students’ productivity and proficiency will be crucial to progressing with the technology. For now, Sproles will continue to work on transforming Metzger Elementary School into a tech-friendly environment where every student has his or her hands on a device.
Check back next Tuesday for Sproles’ advice on how to motivate your staff to be more mobile device friendly in the classroom.