Assignment: Education-Prairie View Technology

iPods, Laptops and SmartBoards... oh my. Toto, I have a feeling we're not in the dark ages anymore.

"The kids now-a-days are so technology aware and savvy with things that our teaching styles have to change to accommodate those learning styles that the kids have," said Brian Sime, Prairie View Elementary School 5th grade teacher.

So, when Prairie View Elementary School opened their doors a little more than a year ago, they also opened a window of opportunity for their students. The school is equipped with mini portable labs, iPods, document cameras, student response systems, webcams and SmartBoards with surround sound in every classroom.

"We have a small wipe board. We don't have a traditional chalkboard. We don't have a large wipe board like we used to," said Sime. "So, the teaching is basically done through the SmartBoard system 99% of the time."

And to help these young minds absorb as much information as possible, research shows lessons delivered in surround sound helps kids with hearing impairments or attention issues make big academic gains.

"That ability to have that sound coming from above them rather than at them directly, they're hearing it two different ways," said Sime. "And it helps them retain and comprehend better. They're able to hear better and understand the information better."

And unlike a certain scarecrow, these little kids have big brains and the teachers can prove it immediately with the use of something called the student response system.

"They're just a little hand held device, and utilizing the smartBoard, it works together with that," said Tim Nielsen, Prairie View Elementary School 1st grade teacher. "And I can offer a quiz or a test to the kids. And they're just sitting on the carpet, and they can put the answers in on this handheld device and it will tabulate it. And it can tell me did they understand this content or is this something that I have to reteach or work more on."

And within just a matter of minutes, a teacher can give a paperless quiz, have each student's work scored and begin reviewing their work.

"It's that immediate, 'oh that's where I made my mistake.' And it's a great learning tool because it's that ah-ha moment that the kids go, 'oh that's what that is.' Or, 'I didn't understand this. Can you explain it?' And we're able to do it right there on the spot," said Sime.

Something else students at Prairie View Elementary can do right on the spot... visit students around the world using webcams.

"These first graders aren't necessarily limited to working with the first grade classroom right next door," said Nielsen. "I can connect with first grade classrooms in other states, in other countries. And they can really get that world experience, and see what it's like out there."

And for teachers at Prairie View, they have been eager and some say courageous as they keep up with the ever-changing age of technology.

"It's completely changed the way that I present material... more interactive, more hands-on because the kids are able to utilize it and do things with the Internet," said Sime. "They're able to find a lot more information and utilize it faster then we used to with the encyclopedia and things like that."

"We need to teach with what they're comfortable with," said Nielsen. "We can't continue to do all of the same old things that we've always done before. We've got to change and meet them where their learning is going to be best met."

And if teachers can do that maybe you'll find students clicking their heals and chanting... there's no place like school. Well, parents can only hope.

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