District showcases technology to touring educators
National School Board Association members watched politely, nodded their approval and asked sensible questions Monday afternoon as Lexington Trails Middle School science teacher Wendy Karr navigated her class through a technology assisted lesson.
Using a projected image of a real sheep's heart, Karr's students and their guests identified its chambers.
They traced the flow of blood through one ventricle to the next using a stylus, white board and projected online diagram.
As a group, students highlighted and read about functions of the heart's various parts on an educational science Web site.
But no amount of technology replaced the innate need of sixth-graders to charge the front of the room and stick their fingers in the aorta after the important guests left.
"And we do that, too," Karr laughed as students poked and prodded at the cold, rubbery specimen. "If they want to."
The National School Board Association chose De Soto USD 232 as one of three stops nationwide on its 2005 education technology site visit tour. This week a charter busload visitors made their way through district buildings and classrooms to see examples of technology at work for schools.
John Canuel, an NSBA member whose home district is in Golden, Colo., attended Karr's class and said he liked what he saw: science was taught with the help of technology, not the other way around.
"The emphasis was on science," he said. "The technology was secondary, which is what we want."
Lexington Trails currently has enough laptop computers for each student to carry one throughout the day.
According to the district's recently revised technology plan, existing laptops will be allocated more equally among schools by this fall. New laptops will be purchased for a middle school and an elementary school scheduled to open by 2010.
All district schools are on schedule to have thin client, a remote wireless computing system, installed by the end of this summer.
The district tagged $8.6 million for technology in its most recent bond issue, passed in November 2002 for $76 million. Although designs for a new middle school came in over budget and one of three planned elementary schools was dropped from the bond schedule, technology dollars were not reduced.
Responding to NSBA visitors' questions, Karr explained daily checkout, how often teachers used laptops, how the computers held up under wear and tear and the Web filtering system.
Canuel asked students: "What's the best thing and the hardest thing about having the laptops?"
Students said they liked having computers to themselves and that online lessons were more fun than textbooks.
The hardest things, students reported, were carrying the computers around school -- your hands get tired, one boy said -- and not being able to take them home at night to work on.
Karr said technology also facilitated communication with parents. They can log on to the district's portal just like students to see their assignments, grades and work in progress.
"Kids, how many of your parents' get the e-mail every week?" she asked the students participating in the demonstration.
All raised their hands.
"How many of your parents check it to see how you're doing?"
Most students sighed heavily and rolled their eyes, leaving their hands up.
Retired science teacher and NSBA member Sue Switzer, Indianapolis, said she would have loved to be able to use technology when she was teaching school like Karr did Monday.
"I love it," Switzer said. "It just opens up so many avenues to actually facilitate your teaching."