By Collin Brooks
The technology infused classrooms of Johnson City aren’t something that the system would like to keep on the DL, but that didn’t stop them from using the #DLDay on Twitter in order to show the world they were participating in Digital Learning Day.
A system-wide technology day was part of a national celebration on Feb. 23. That meant that almost every school in the system was able to show how they have brought their classroom up to speed in the ever-evolving digital age.
“We’ve had such a push over the last 18 months to really put into place our digital transformation plan with moving more toward an environment where we have a lot of digital tools for our students,” said Supervisor of Instructional Technology for the Johnson City School System Dr. David Timbs. “So this was just a great day and a great opportunity to allow our teachers and our students a day to really spotlight the things they’ve learned and been working on for the last year-and-a-half.”
Timbs and several other central office employees, along with a few Johnson City Board of Education members and Johnson City Commissioners toured different classrooms at South Side, North Side and Science Hill to see just how the new advancements are applied in Johnson City.
At North Side, two groups were led around the school by 4th graders Emmie Gullett and Talicia Copney. The first stop was Chelsea Lee’s 3rd grade math class, where students were diligently comparing fractions on their Dell touchscreen laptops. Lee mentioned to the group that she didn’t have one student on the same lesson, but the class was working quietly at their screens, stylus’ en tow.
“It’s great for them because they aren’t sitting there bored, they are going at their own pace and it is something that they feel comfortable with,” Lee said. “That means I can go around and help the students that might be struggling on a certain concept. And the students that don’t need help can go on.”
“That is going to be the biggest thing that we see changed in education,” he said. “Through technology, we are going to be better equipped to allow students to work at their own pace, whether that be faster or slower so that they can grasp those concepts.”
That teaching method is dubbed by the state as personal learning and while the technology of the classroom is constantly evolving, Timbs admitted that there is no doubt who is the most important thing in the classroom.
“Without a doubt, the most important component in any classroom that helps to determine success, is the teacher,” Timbs said. “And if we are properly equipping the teacher with those tools, then we are going to see amazing things out of them.”
While there have been numerous presentations to the school board and commission about the technology that is being used in the system, it was important for those leaders to be able to see the work in action.
“That’s one of the reasons that Dr. Richard Bales wanted us to invite school board members and city commission, so that they could actually come in and see the changes,” Timbs said. “You know school has really changed over the years, look how much it has changed in the past five years. So think about the last 10, 15 and 20 years, to sit in a board meeting and talk about technology and talking about what kids are creating and experimenting with, to really see it in action, it just really drives home, ‘Wow, our students are doing some amazing things.’”
Timbs also said that it was good to point out that all ages are able to use and learn with technology.
Other stops for the group included stopping in North Side’s library to watch second graders review story elements by using a close to 70-inch Dell touch screen monitor. After given text, the students would drag different details to create the scene that they heard.
There was also a digital science lab at North Side in Valerie Orfield’s class, where students were busy driving robots and around the floor, coding with Dash and Ozbots and making circuits on the table with littleBits, all learning invaluable lessons, while they think they are just playing.
Other schools in the district also had fun learning with technology as Woodland and Mountain View students were able to Skype with one another as part of a pen-pal exercise they have been working on. Fairmont celebrated a little early, having a Technology Infusion Focus during their PTA meeting on Feb. 21, which encouraged students to challenge their parent in some of the activities using technology.