WARNER ROBINS -- Located in an area that has deemed itself Georgia’s Most Progressive County, Houston County schools are far behind in the technology accessible to its students, said Sharon Lunceford, director of technology for the district.
School officials hope a pilot program providing students with in-classroom computers will help get them up to speed.
Classes in three schools -- Matt Arthur Elementary, Perry Middle and Warner Robins High -- are using new technology to point district officials in the right direction of creating a 21st century classroom environment.
“We’d like to see as much technology in the hands of as many students as possible,” Lunceford said. “Ultimately, we’d like to see every student with this technology. That’s a very expensive proposition, and I don’t know if that’s really proper for all ages and all subjects.”
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The pilot program is designed to give educators and school officials an idea of which equipment works best with which grade levels and which classes.
The district outfitted Warner Robins High School math and AP computer science classes with netbook computers, while eighth-grade science and fourth-grade language arts and writing students are using iPads at Perry Middle and Matt Arthur Elementary, respectively.
District officials will monitor students throughout the school year and analyze test scores at the end of the year to measure student improvement while using the technology.
They also will take note of student engagement and whether discipline increases or decreases during the year, Lunceford said.
“The students have been wonderful,” she said. “They have not been abusing it. It’s just an exciting tool that they get to use.”
The equipment was purchased by the district, with funding split between the technology services, teaching and learning and student services committees, Lunceford said.
This pilot program comes at a time when district officials are urging residents to vote to renew the education special purpose local option sales tax. If approved, they say the focus of SPLOST spending will be in technology.
“Our focus is to provide an environment that is comfortable and conducive to learning for our students and to be able to provide those tools to them that allow them to work in a work environment that is relevant to the world around them,” said Robin Hines, superintendent of Houston County schools. “We are educating our children for jobs that have not even been created yet. The information is coming at such a rate that we have to teach our children how to learn, how to facilitate information and how to go get that information, and we want those tools to match up with that.”
Despite technology’s advances, school officials say the foundation of learning remains the same.
“The technology does not take over the teaching,” said Jolie Hardin, principal at Matt Arthur Elementary. “It’s just one of the resources and tools that they use.”
In fact, Warner Robins High teacher Larry Wadsworth said the addition of the netbook computers to his classroom allows him to spend more time on teaching the material and less time with students thumbing through hundred-page textbooks.
“When we’re doing definitions, instead of flipping through a book, they can hit control-F and find the word,” he said. “My job is not to teach you how to find a word in a glossary. It’s to make sure you understand the meaning.”
Brian Trent, technology coordinator for the district, said the key is making the technology fit the system.
“Great teachers make the technology work,” he said after sitting in on Wadsworth’s AP computer science class earlier this month. “Otherwise, we can spend a lot of money and still see no results. ... We’re trying to make sure great teachers have the tools to really push our students to excel.”
To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 256-9751.