Technology Increasingly Becoming Part of Classroom

Washington Times-Herald, Ind.April 29, 2019

The elementary classroom in the Washington Community schools has become a place filled with technology, computers and robots. Terms that were just appearing a couple decades ago like Skype and tablets are now part of the commonplace ways of learning.

High tech has become part of all of the schools.

“This goes on at all of our classrooms in the Washington Community Schools,” Veale Elementary Principal Brenda Butcher told members of the Washington Rotary Club. “We have embedded technology into the classroom.”

Veale students talked about the robotics team and other high-tech offerings during the recent Rotary meeting at Daviess Community Hospital. For instance, the school has begun having Skype sessions in which the students can talk with authors.

“These children wanted to do the author Skype but we didn’t have the money,” said Butcher. “They did a fundraiser and they generated the funds so that we could get the authors.”

The students raised $2,000 that has been split between more than half a dozen authors.

At Veale, school officials say more and more teachers are embracing the use and addition of technology in the classroom.

“At our school we are blessed because some of our teachers have their own robots,” said fifth-grade teacher Nikki Sparks. “The kids love ‘WeDos.’ They build them and then they program them. They are expensive but there are a couple of us that have a couple in our classrooms.”

School officials point out that having the naval support Crane base nearby has turned into a real aid as teachers try to bring more technology into schools. “In May, we get the EBBS (electronic bulletin board system) from Crane,” said Sparks. “All of the kids get to work with the robots and learn how to program them through a course they created. It’s a pretty fun month.”

In addition, Crane loans instruction material to the schools that teach STEM or science, technology, engineering and math, and technology-based concepts.

Having more technology, though, raises the specter of people who behave badly and attempt to take advantage of students online. At Veale, the school became one of the first in southern Indiana to play host to the Indiana State Police Internet Crime Against Children Task Force.

“With all of our technology and a lot of the children having smartphones, we felt we wanted to get some safety information out to parents,” said Butcher. “They talked with our third- and fourth-graders and then with fifth- and sixth-graders. We taught the parents how to monitor phones and showed them sites where kids like to hide and how you can pull them out. It was a very positive and beneficial night.”

The spread of technology has also affected the way teachers and staff interact and learn.

“Whether it is with professional development or whatever, they can reach out and Skype with a teacher at another school, other places,” said Butcher. “It is good that we can reach out and access each other and see what is going on in other classrooms.”

The school told the Rotary Club about an upcoming day in which technology will become the focal point of the school corporation’s delivery of material.

“We have an e-learning day and we intend to swim in the deep end,” said Butcher. “We intend to keep the rigor up because we embed learning with technology all day long.”

“I think it’s going to be useful,” said Veale student Breah Eskew. “You can get on the computer and go to Google Classroom. Your teacher can put on the assignment so you can go to it. Other than being in my pj’s it will be the exact same thing as being in class.”

“My kids will do basically what we do every day except I will be at home instead of in the classroom,” said Sparks. “I’m excited.”

Washington school officials have been expanding their technology usage at a rapid pace.

“In the last seven years, the adoption of technology has surpassed anything I would have anticipated,” said Washington Superintendent Dan Roach. “Seven years ago the computers at the high school were seven years old. We had to borrow 1,000 from the state house surplus. These kids are building the groundwork at the elementary level. Next year, we’re adding cyber security at the high school through Project Lead the Way Computer Science Class, and the fact that we have Crane just down the road has become a great partnership.”