Oct 12 2006

Students Help Technology Implementations In Their Classrooms

Teens Know Technology: Schools Gain When Students Participate in Technology Decisions

Schools know how important technology is to education. But many don’t yet realize how important it is for students to be involved in their school’s technology decisions. After all, students are the ones who can benefit the most from technology.

I’m a teenager, and, like most other teens, I love technology. I’m constantly on my notebook e-mailing with friends, and my parents say my cell phone grows out of my ear!

I think it’s natural for technology to be everywhere—especially at school. I have been using computers since kindergarten, even though they weren’t in the mainstream at that time. I attended a technology magnet school where we used computers to learn numbers and play games.

In my elementary school, we had computer labs. Now I’m a junior at Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, N.C., and, more than ever, computers are an integral part of my life.

But something has changed in the last couple of years: More of my teachers have become very comfortable with technology, which means we’re able to use computers in classes where we might not expect to use them. For example, I never thought my English teacher would know how to use a computer and then want us to use one for assignments. But using technology to study literature has made the class more exciting.

Using technology in classes has made me want to be involved in the selection and use of technology at my school. Students can bring value to this process. My friends and I spend almost as much time online as earlier generations did in front of a television. I’d estimate that 70 percent of the students at my school have computers, and I have a notebook that I use to access the Internet and e-mail.

The Role of Students

I think school districts should encourage students to help select technology for classroom use. After all, we’re the ones who benefit from it, and we’re often the ones who know which technology is best.

That’s why we should be involved in selecting the types of technology our schools buy, as well as helping to decide the ways it will be used in the classroom and how students will be trained to use the hardware and software. Learning new technology is part of our lives, so we can be very helpful in shaping its use.

We can even teach the teachers. For example, in some districts, students are part of a technology help squad. Some schools even allow students to choose Internet content and services.

Because teenagers have grown up with computers, we often know which technology is or isn’t going to work better than the teachers do. Adults who aren’t familiar or comfortable with technology may be swayed by a good salesperson and may end up buying software or hardware that students know isn’t useful or is full of bugs. With our help, that’s less likely to happen.

Poetry and Presentations

Because the Internet has become such an ingrained part of our lives, we respond extremely well to it in an educational environment. For example, last year, my English teacher, who really understands technology, created a Web site and divided us into groups. Each group took a chapter of “Inferno,” from the Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s long poem, The Divine Comedy, and then we developed an online presentation using PowerPoint.

We were assigned questions about the poem and used the Internet to research the questions and download pictures. Then we created PowerPoint presentations, using bulleted information to teach each other about different chapters in the book.

My group used the animation feature on PowerPoint to make it even more interesting. We also downloaded a drawing of Cerberus—the three-headed doglike monster in Greek mythology that guarded the entrance to Hades—to use as an image of fire. It was pretty cool.

We all got to know Dante’s “Inferno” in an engaging and interactive way. I don’t think we could have done that by simply reading the book.

Another great way we use technology is through a program called Qwizdom. Every student in the class gets a remote control device for a computer, which is operated by the teacher who programs a quiz into it. A question comes up, and each student answers it using his or her remote control device. The teacher can bring up scores and see how many got the answer right. It’s just another way that technology improves our education.

There are many things teachers can do with a computer that would help a student understand complex concepts. I’d love to have a math class that used computers, and there is a lot of math software available. History would be much more exciting if we could include multimedia learning and then create PowerPoint presentations about historical events.

I’d also love to take online classes in subjects I don’t have time for during the school day. I have so many classes that I need to graduate that I don’t have time to take some classes that I’m interested in. Teachers could make better use of their classroom time if certain courses were split into two components: an online section for work that students could do at home and a lab section that could be completed at school. This would also give students more class choices.

Schools could also make tests available online, so students could take exams even if they were absent from school. The tests could be made secure by making students log on and requiring an honor code or an adult monitor.

Technology has already improved my education tremendously by offering different avenues for me to learn. Computers let me explore multimedia, research various projects, upload photos and art, and learn about things in a whole new way. And I can get the most current information on any topic.

I think most schools understand how important technology is to their students’ education. But I don’t think most of them understand how important it is for students to be involved in making technology decisions for their schools.

I hope that changes—soon.

Emily McAdams, 16, is a junior at Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, N.C., and is also the president of the North Carolina Technology Student Association, as well as vice president of her school’s chapter. TSA students compete in technology-related events and build leadership skills.

How Tech-Savvy Schools Can Help—and Challenge—Students

Technology isn’t the answer to every question, but it can help solve some education challenges both in and out of the classroom.

• Course-specific software helps students understand complex concepts.

• Online courses optimize classroom time for teachers and students, while also offering students more course choices.

• In addition, they allow students to take courses they can’t fit into their school schedule.

• Online interactive study guides for tests—many textbooks now come with supplementary software—and secure online tests allow students to study for and take tests, even when they’re absent from class.

• Online homework assignments enable students to do their homework even when they’re absent.

• In art classes, digital photography and video let students create digital art portfolios.

• Web site design and use provide a new way to learn and communicate information.

• Online software tutorials help students get up to speed on new technology or just become more adept with it.

How Tech-Savvy Students Can Help Schools

Schools should take advantage of what students know about technology by letting them play a larger role in technology decisions. Students can help by:

• Recommending appropriate hardware

• Choosing applications they know other students will use

• Training other students and teachers

• Suggesting ways in which technology can be used in the classroom

• Troubleshooting problems that arise