When I was in elementary school, computers were largely used as a source of educational entertainment. Once a week, the elementary school classes would each spend about 20 minutes in the computer lab playing fun educational games. It was not until I was in high school that we started using basic word processing software to type reports and papers. If you are wondering how old I am, I graduated high school in the mid-1990s. As my children have entered public elementary school and now middle school, I am fascinated at how public schools have embraced technology and how easily the kids are using it.
In Elementary School Today
As early as first grade, my kids used PowerPoint to prepare basic presentations for parent-student conferences at the end of the year. They were shown how to use the program, and they created a computer slideshow that showed off their work for their past year. This was standard for all of the kids from first grade through fifth grade in my . They also used various programs to edit photos and videos for other presentations, and they often type papers now rather than handwrite them.
In Middle School
Perhaps the most significant difference that I have noticed as a parent begins with the middle school years. As early as sixth grade, kids in my child’s school are encouraged to bring their smart phones and other devices that have web capabilities with them to school. The school has a strict policy that prohibits texting, phone calls, taking photos of videos and more at school. The devices are permitted purely to provide kids with Internet access at their desks, and the school offers WiFi for the students. For students who do not have a smart phone or other device, they have invested in a few iPads for each of the classrooms. The intent is to provide kids with the ability to conduct research as needed throughout the day. The cost to the school is minimized because the kids are using their own devices.
Further, some of my child’s teachers have further used technology in an innovative way. For example, one of my child’s teachers gives the class homework each night of watching her pre-recorded lesson online and taking notes. Rather than spend time in class listening to her lesson, the students can watch it and absorb it on their own, repeating it as many times as necessary. In class, the kids work together in groups or online on exercises, assignments and more related to the previous night’s homework. The teacher is available to answer questions about the assignment the class is working on. This is directly opposite the “old” way of teaching a class, which involved spending time lecturing in class and doing the assignment at home. I believe this new method maximizes class time in a manner that is most beneficial to the kids.
These are the most prevalent uses of technology in my kids’ schools, but I am sure there will be many more exciting changes in store before my youngest graduates!