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Viewmont Elementary students reveal computer skills at technology night

Mar 31, 2017 08:57AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Viewmont Elementary students demonstrate their technology skills during the school’s technology night. (Viewmont Elementary)

By Julie Slama  |  Julie@mycityjournals.com

When Jamie Cheney walked into her child’s classroom during the Viewmont Elementary’s technology night, her first-grader logged in and was told to do a search.

“I thought there’s no way he can search Google with his short, stubby little fingers,” said Cheney, the owner of a tutoring company. “First-graders don’t have as much fine motor skills, but they showed us that they do have those skills and can navigate the computer and draw with a mouse. The kids were really excited to show parents what they knew. I was impressed.”

The Feb. 22 night was designed to do just that—show parents and the community what students are able to do and what programs teachers use in the classroom, said Viewmont Principal Missy Hamilton.

“We’re making sure our students are knowing the 21st-century skills,” she said. “Many of them are born with an iPad and intuitively know the skills. So, if we’re delivering our curriculum without technology, we’re not engaging them and we’re losing them. We want to motivate and inspire our students.”

Viewmont set a 2:1 technology device to student ratio goal to accomplish 18 months ago. This spring, through business partnerships and donations made from the Parent-Teacher Association fundraisers, they will meet it, Hamilton said. Ultimately, she’d like every child to have a device.

Second-grade teacher Geri Smith said having a 2:1 ratio would help with scheduling the devices.

“Two-to-one would mean two teachers sharing a cart (of Chrome Books) rather than the three or four who share the cart right now,” she said. “It would afford more opportunities to use the carts as a whole versus half of a class or a small group set of them.”

During the technology night, Smith used Nearpod, an interactive presentation program similar to PowerPoint, to do a lesson with students and their parents about skip counting. First, they watched a video and played a game on a website she selected, then they drew in answers to some problems and did a quiz.

“The program lets me see what they submit immediately, and I can have that immediate information of who understands and who doesn't,” she said.

Parent Denise Stout who was there with her children saw how her child’s third-grade teacher reacted with the immediate feedback in NearPod.

“There was no way a teacher could interact as fast and understand who got the answers correct and could comprehend the lesson without it,” she said. “Students could write a sentence summary or voice an opinion about what they read. I’ve seen technology for the classroom, but I’ve never seen this and it immediately allowed the interaction between the teacher and individual student.”

Smith also allowed students to demonstrate other programs such as Epic, an online library of e-books; xtramath.org, online math flashcards; digital.readworks.org, where students read an article and either type a few sentences about it or answer a quiz about it; and several students had Google Slides presentations or Docs.

“Technology is another tool in a teacher's toolbox for teaching and learning. Some programs, like Nearpod, make my whole group instruction more interactive and engaging. Other things like Readworks and Epic provide meaningful reading and writing while I have a chance to pull a small group of students for extra help or for enrichment. All of these things help the students with their typing skills which is a new life skill for this generation,” she said.

Parents seemed to support the technology they saw demonstrated.

“I heard parents say that they were blown away about what their children were learning and how they were learning it on the computer. We wanted to show to our community how their donations were helping our children learn,” Hamilton said.

Stout said it showed to her what her kids are learning in the classroom.

“It’s important to see it in action, to watch the children interact and apply what they know. The teachers are comfortable with the technology and so are the kids. They’re excited and can log in at home to see messages from teachers. It makes me want to support that initiative more and it’s essential to prepare students for their homework in junior high, college and in careers,” she said.

Cheney agrees that technology is intertwined in today’s learning.

“The ACT (and other standardized college preparation tests) is the only standardized test not on the computer. The GED, SAGE and all the professional licensing is computerized. Missy and Viewmont have a vision for technology and learning and the teachers are behind that. They kids are excited to learn on the computers and are having fun with learning that way,” she said.

Cheney added that the technology effort at Viewmont isn’t only limited in the classroom, but to the parents as well. Many parents receive texts or emails through Parent Square, which is an application that the school uses to alert parents of events, need of volunteers and upcoming awards.

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