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January 17, 2013

SPECIAL REPORT: Technology is future of education in Oklahoma

CHICKASHA — Part three of a three part series investigating new teaching methods in Chickasha and the nation.

Technology integration is inevitable. The last 25 years has brought our society affordable personal computers, satellite navigation systems, smart phones and the internet. Naturally this technology has permeated every aspect of our lives including the teaching industry.

Textbooks have started taking a back seat to computer aided learning and conventional work sheets that used to constitute home work have been replaced by power point presentations.

Even in Chickasha High School science classes have begun to cling to this technology as an evolutionary learning tool.

Educational Technology Coordinator at Canadian Valley Technology Center Dr. Don Wilson said different districts are at different places with technology implementation.

“There have been a number of changes to the utilization of technology in schools in general, but every school is different,” he said. “Canadian Valley Professional Development Network is working with schools in the region to meet those specific needs.  We don’t promote a specific tool, rather we work with the school districts to start where they are with the technology they have or plan to have and provide services to support the appropriate use of those tools in a classroom situation.”

Director of Finance for Chickasha Public School Dwight Yokum said Wilson has engaged in doing just that at Chickasha High School. He said the district will pay to have their teachers sent to train in classroom technological implementation with Wilson.

Head of the Science Department at Chickasha High School Lori Pettijohn said now smart boards are in every science class room and are used on a daily basis for instruction.

“We do assign less homework than we used to, but now, in my Biology class I have tried to implement several lessons where we use laptops or notebooks,” she said.

Although an inevitable trend a negative has also shown its head with technology implementation. Recent studies, including one performed by MetaMetrics have found students graduating from high school are not as prepared for post secondary work as they once were.

Wilson said the key to combatting this trend is to concentrate more on how new technology is integrated into teaching.

“Technology just means tools,” he said. “Preparing students to be good consumers of information and able to put that information to work for them has less to do with the tool than it does the process. There is too much information in the world for a student to memorize all the facts.  We have to know how to find accurate, appropriate and useful information.  It goes beyond just being able to do a quick search of the web.  Having said that, if we ignore the tools thinking that we don’t need them or we can teach without them, we end up unable to prepare the students for the broader, connected society where we live.”

Despite these advances, Wilson said some he would argue that our technological implementation hasn’t hit the level it needs to in order to compete with the rest of the world.

“If we really want to produce the high-level thinkers that business and industry are challenging us to produce, we have to change the methodology and I don’t see how you make those changes without technology playing some role,” he said.

Many say the key to shifting the downward reading trend is by implementing Common Core standards, a system designed to create a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn.

Pettijohn said she believes utilizing the Common Core will be able to fix this trend despite its recent addition to Chickasha High School’s curriculum.

“There are so many different levels of readers in the same class,” she said. “The goal of the Common Core is to bring everyone to the same level.”

No matter how the downward sloping reading trend is combatted both Pettijohn and Wilson said technology in the classroom isn’t going anywhere.

“I believe it will continue to impact both society and schools in positive and negative ways,” Wilson said. “I think that is why teaching people to use it is so important.  I think we could all see where tools use us or we use them in our own lives.  I don’t think that is going to change in the future.”

Pettijohn shared this sentiment, but said she has no idea what to expect in regards to her career how teaching will differ in the years to come.

“I think you’re going to see more use of the internet and kids using net books to do research,” she said. “Kids don’t even go to the library anymore for research.”

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