The Times West Virginian

February 12, 2014

Digital Learning takes students into 21st century

Times West Virginian

— The classrooms your children and grandchildren sit in each day are vastly different from the classrooms you grew up in.

That was especially the case earlier this month when schools across the country observed Digital Learning Day.

In some classrooms, students determined their digital footprint.

Some students wrote blogs about ethical issues in communication.

Some students even studied the impact digital media has on their personal lives by analyzing their use of digital media during one 24-hour time period.

These were just some of the lessons offered on Digital Learning Day to help promote new ways of learning.

In Marion County, education leaders use digital learning as a way to deliver content better and in a more interesting way. Teachers do this by using online virtual science lab activities, interactive poetry websites, Google Earth, Excel spreadsheets, and other online and interactive tools. There’s also a monthly newsletter called “Technology Access Point” that highlights events in the schools involving technology as well as other digital learning updates.

As Chad Norman, administrative assistant of technology services, explained, the goal is to give every student and teacher the opportunity to learn in a robust digital environment, not just on Digital Learning Day, but every day.

“We have the goal of success in the classroom, and we want students to carry that success into post-secondary education and their career,” Norman added. “We want them to take the pledge to support the effective use of technology to improve the education of all students. We’re so proud of the teachers in Marion County because they understand their content area. They use technology as a tool to enhance learning and to address content.”

Some, like Leigh Ann Hood, do that by purchasing new digital items for their classrooms. As the librarian at East Park Elementary, Hood used part of her library budget to buy Nooks for her students, and the library is now equipped with 20 Nooks and two Kindle Fires, along with laptops, DVDs, LeapPads and books on tape.

“They’re tablets, so they have the Internet on them. They can move much more easily around the room,” Hood explained. “The kids can be anywhere they want to be without being confined to one area. Moving the laptops every day is complicated.”

Students can download ebooks to the Nooks, which broadens their options when it comes time for weekly individual reading time. This ensures children are reading content they’re interested in, Hood said.

Hood also works to incorporate technology in her everyday lessons by teaching them how to type so they’re prepared to take statewide testing online and using the Internet to show students photographs of places mentioned in books they read.

Adjusting to this new form of learning is essential, as Valerie Rinehart, a math teacher at East Fairmont High School, pointed out. Rinehart, who teaches college-level math classes that require students to take tests online and use math programs online on a regular basis, has also moved toward a more digital way of teaching.

“We’re in a 21st-century world,” Rinehart said. “They’re being tested online. Their college classes are going online. Everything is going that route, and if we’re using antiquated equipment, we’re not cutting it.”

As digital learning becomes more common, we’re encouraged by local teachers’ willingness to incorporate the style into their lessons. As Rinehart said, relying on outdated methods just won’t cut it, and today’s students deserve the very best that can be offered to them.