Local schools embrace technology in the classroom
It’s hard to ignore the multitude of electronic communication devices that are part of our society every day. With newer, faster, less expensive versions of the best-selling electronic devices becoming more easily attainable, the way we communicate is changing right along with it. Electronic devices, such as e-readers, iPads, and smart boards are becoming more common in the workplace, and also more common in our local schools.
The Tribune interviewed the schools in our coverage area to find out what new technologies have been implemented and how they are affecting the modern classroom. For the next few weeks, we will be featuring a story about how schools in Clay, Pinson, and Trussville are doing to keep up with the ever-changing learning environment.
This week, we feature Trussville’s school system and take a look inside the digitally-driven classroom.
By Anna McFall
Those working in the Information Technology department of the Trussville City School System will be the first to tell you that they are proud of what they do, and proud of the teachers in the schools.
Technology has played a large supporting role in the growth of the Trussville City School System, but more than that, for today’s learner, technology is a fundamental component for growth.
“Teachers have come a long way since the beginning, and do an outstanding job with the use of technology to support the curriculum,” Shawn Nutting, Director of Technology for Trussville City Schools said. “But true success in the classroom comes from the teacher.”
In Trussville’s schools, the learning experience is enhanced by the presence and use of technologies that allow the students and teachers to go beyond a textbook full of words.
“We have all 21st Century classrooms with mounted LCD projectors, laptops, amplifiers, and document cameras,” Nutting said.
The process of integrating electronic devices into the school environment took a lot of planning and time. Three years ago, Trussville implemented a one-to-one laptop initiative for middle and high school students, which encouraged students to bring their own computers to school.
School administrators invest heavily in their students and teachers to provide any necessary technology resource they may require. While the idea of each student being able to bring a personal electronic device to school excited many, it also added some hurdles before the program could fully function.
“Currently we are increasing our wireless speed to support the massive influx of iPads,” administrators said.
When Trussville implemented the one-to-one laptop initiative, the IT staff faced a challenge: faculty and staff computers would share the same space as guest devices and as many as 2,300 student devices.
Trussville was able to ensure that its network was secured from unauthorized access, as the school system provided secured wireless access for students.
In addition to the IT staff being available to help set up devices and provide a help center, school administrators attend various state and national conferences dealing with technology. Some of the conferences that Trussville administrators attend include: National Educational Computing Conference, International Society for Technology in Education, Consortium for Social Networking, K12 Online Conference, Alabama Educational Technology Association and the Alabama Educational Technology Conference.
Trussville City Schools has been selected as one of 13 leading-edge districts to share experiences, challenges and best practices for innovative uses of new media in K-12 education, as part of an initiative launched by the Consortium for School Networking.
The district participates in peer-to-peer groups of district leaders or “cadres.” The goal of the cadre is to foster the sharing of ideas, best practices and challenges, and to discover new ways to leverage new media to reenergize, rethink and reimagine teaching and learning.
“It is a great honor to be selected,” Nutting said. “We were selected over other K-12 schools in the United States. We are proud to be a part of such a professional organization and happy to share our best practices with others.”
Trussville schools are not the only ones seeing big changes in the way of learning in the classroom. Todd Alexander, a 1995 graduate of HTHS, now teaches middle school science in the Chilton County school district.
“Technology has become huge in our school,” Alexander said. “Over the past few years every teacher has gotten a MacBook and an iPad.”
Jemison Middle School, where Alexander is a 5th grade science teacher, also has two Mac labs and a rolling MacBook cart with 25 computers for teachers to use with their classes.
“Math and science teachers at JMS have all gotten SMART boards as well,” Alexander said.
This year, for the first time, the 7th grade teachers at JMS chose to purchase e-books for their reading classes. The books are to be read on the iPads, rather than purchasing paper copies.
“Many of us are going to be trained on iBooks,” Alexander said
. “Which, if I understand correctly will give us the ability to create our own online textbooks. I think physical textbooks will soon become a thing of the past.”