With iPads in hand, the math and science teachers walked around Charles Carroll Middle School recently snapping pictures of images that illustrated the school’s motto — Pride. When they returned to the the media center, they used an iPad application that creates videos, then they chose a style and music and uploaded the video to a Web site.
The exercise in Prince George’s County was part of a professional development lesson funded by the Verizon Foundation to promote the use of technology in the classroom, especially in schools in underserved communities.
“Our students are digital natives, and the teachers are digital immigrants,” said Joy Long, a teacher for 17 years. “With this training, we will be better equipped. We’ll be able to apply the apps to learning. . . . I now know how to use Angry Birds for science.”
Verizon partnered with the International Society for Technology in Education to provide the training to demonstrate to teachers how to use various free applications, including polling. This month, the teachers received a few days of training, and over the next year, instructors will return for additional lesson plans. School starts in Prince George’s for roughly 120,000 students on Monday.
Annyce Dey, a seventh-grade teacher, said that by using technology teachers are “meeting students where they are, rather than [the students] trying to catch up” on learning the curriculum using standard teaching methods.
A student in her math class last year used a video game console to work on assignments at home. “It worked for him,” Dey said. “People think there is only way to learn.”
School administrators and teachers in the Washington region and across the country are increasingly trying to find more ways to use technology to help students learn, keep them engaged and get them prepared for the future.
“We have a whole generation of students who have grown up in a virtual world, and when they get into the classroom they are in a model of lecture and listen and kids don’t engage well with that,” said Rose Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation.
Douglas A. Levin, executive director of the State Education Technology Directors Association, said some school systems across the country have replaced printed textbooks with hand-held tablets such as Kindles and iPads. Some biology teachers are using computer software that simulates dissection.
In Fairfax County, students are asked to watch online videos and answer math problems at home. At Charles Carroll, they are learning algebra on iPads in the classroom.
Students in William Shulman’s 10th grade government class at Northwestern High School in Prince George’s posted their opinions about political cartoons online.
“You’re able to teach and help a child understand something using different methods other than a worksheet,” Shulman said. “It gives a teacher the ability to find information and present information that might not necessarily happen with standard teaching.”
Debra Mahone, director of the federal Title I program for Prince George’s, which focuses on helping to educate poor children, said nearly all students in county schools have access to computers at school, but budget constraints prevent schools from offering all the forms of technology they would like to provide.
But the system, looking to close the academic achievement gap, has rolled out an expansion in the use of technology in four of its middle schools that receive federal funding, including Charles Carroll. The federal grant allowed each student to have his or her own iPad. Mahone said 3,339 iPads were distributed last year.