Our Schools: Focusing on the three E’s of technology

Uses growing among students and teachers

EDITOR’S NOTE — This is the first in a week-long series of columns written by Morris school leaders discussing their schools’ use of technology. In the coming months, similar series of articles will focus on other topics pertinent to local education.

Apple has a way of promoting the “next life-changing technology breakthrough” as well as any company in recent history. As I followed the January 2012 announcement of iBooks 2 for iPad, I wondered how this newest learning opportunity would impact our students.

Soon to follow was word that New Trier High School in Winetkka was launching a one-to-one computer initiative that would put electronic textbooks in student’s hands immediately. I read countless “tweets” that morning from education journals touting this Apple announcement as the real “game changer” in education.

The research on the impact of this interactive technology on student learning is slowly emerging and we are working hard to make as many opportunities available to our students and staff as possible. Technology Director J.D. Morrison recently framed our efforts in this area as the three E’s — engaging, enhancing, and evaluating. 

Many people are connected to the outside world 24/7 via smart phones, iPads, or computers. Students at MCHS are engaged in the classroom daily through the use of LCD projectors, smart boards, and laptop computers. Nearly every classroom in the building is equipped with an LCD projector that makes it easy for teachers to share information via PowerPoint, the Internet, or a live video-stream.

Science teacher Rob Wallon and J.D. Morrison are in the process of setting up an interactive video-conference through the Museum of Science and Industry so the Anatomy and Physiology class can experience the medical team from Advocate Christ Medical Center performing an open-heart surgery bypass procedure. This type of interactive engagement will improve student learning and provide them an opportunity few will ever experience.

MCHS teachers work hard to enhance the learning experience through the use of technology. Wireless Internet access throughout the building makes it easy for teachers and students to use iPods, iPads, and laptop computers. The improved video-streaming capabilities will allow teachers to access educational media more efficiently and eventually replace the older VCR technology.

Dave Auwerda has been working with the staff on integrating technology into the classroom. Several teachers use Edmodo and Google Docs throughout their curriculum. Band Director Don Stinson uses Garage-band with his students to integrate music and video into their learning experiences. Cindy Shannon and the math department have posted lessons and supplemental materials using YouTube so if students are absent they can access the information needed to complete assignments.

The goal of using technology to enhance the classroom experience is always to improve student achievement. The use of various technologies in the evaluation process is starting to have an impact on our use of achievement data to make instructional decisions.

The district has used the Pearson Limelight student data management system for the last several years and we are beginning to generate useful student achievement data. This process has taken time to implement, but more and more departments are using it to help teachers analyze semester and unit test results.

Illinois will soon require the use of this data to demonstrate student growth and our departments are beginning to see the benefits of the information. By 2014, all required state testing will take place online. It is important that we improve our technology capabilities so we can handle that task when it is mandated.

Social Studies teacher Jon Lanning currently uses Quia to administer his assessments online. I predict this practice will increase within our building in preparation for the new 2014 system of testing. We use a computer-based reading program called Read 180 to help assess students reading level and develop improvement strategies. Technology definitely helps us gain a better understanding of students strengths and weaknesses as we work to make them college and career ready.

The district will soon launch a Facebook page and Twitter account in an attempt to keep the community informed about the events and happenings in the district. Several clubs and individual teachers are using these web tools and with a great deal of success. Look for more information on those topics in the near future.

The school improvement and technology plans help guide our direction in the area of technology implementation. The three E’s of engaging, enhancing, and evaluating describe our efforts to “keep up” with this rapidly evolving area of education. What will the next big announcement be? Is the iPad 3 coming in March? Will digital textbooks replace the books most of us used in our school years?

My daily routine that used to include reading the “newspaper” now starts by scanning the news on my iPad and checking Twitter. What will our student’s high school experience be like in the coming years? Time will tell. 

For more information about Morris Community High School, check us out at www.morrishs.org or email J.D. Morrison at jmorrison@morrishs.org or Pat Halloran at phalloran@morrishs.org.