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Education Desk: Celebrating Technology In Volusia County Classrooms

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Thursday is Digital Learning Day, a national celebration of technology in the classroom. To mark the day, 90.7’s Catherine Welch talked with Volusia County School’s Melanie Kestory about how tools like virtual reality goggles are making their way into the county’s classroom.

KESTORY:  Recently I was in a third grade classroom and they were learning about the Grand Canyon. When you and I went to school we would watch a video or we would read a book, this classroom the students were using interactive headsets over their eyes kind of looked like goggles along with a resource called Nearpod.

That gave them that virtual reality sense of being at the Grand Canyon. They were able to so to speak walk to the edge of the canyon and looked down, and they were able to hear the sounds of the trickling water at the bottom of the canyon. So it really gave them that virtual reality of being in the canyon as opposed to watching some still frame videos of the canyon. It really allows them to have those experiences as if they were there themselves.

WELCH: Are there considerations when you’re thinking about matching students up with technology. Considerations in terms of age, so when I bought my ten-year-old a Chromebook I thought “I have no idea how long a ten-year-old boy can hold on to a Chromebook without beating it to death, and sure enough it almost died by Oreo cookie dust. Is there a lot of thought given to, you know, okay this is a third grader verses this is a seventh grader or an eleventh grader?

KESTORY: Actually yes, there is consideration given towards the age. And there’s a lot of research behind the age appropriateness for devices in our younger grades. Kindergarten and first grade we are more likely to see tablets used because that’s more appropriate for them and for their hands to hold. They don’t quite have that ability to maneuver a mouse very easily.

When they get a little older they start to not only learn the ins and outs of computers but become more able to control the devices. And then when we get into the older grades we start looking at that, and what we have is very durable laptops. They are actually called yoga’s which they turn all the way around and turn into a tablet, so the students can sit at a desk top with them or they can flip them inside out sit with their legs crisscross applesauce and use it as a tablet.  But they’re very durable, knowing that depending on the school, they may get a little rough and ware to them so they’re really made to last with those older students.

WELCH: Are there ways technology is being used in Volusia County classrooms that surprises you?

KESTORY: One of the resources that has been wildly popular this year is a resource called Nearpod. It allows the teacher to bring interactive activities to students, but it also allows students to give live feedback. So if a teacher were to ask a question, and in many different formats, the students use their device to provide that answer. Then on the teacher’s device she is able to see the answer in live time.

One of the ways that I was just recently surprised was a foreign language teacher she was using Nearpod with her high school students. She had a prompt, which I can only assume because it was written in French, said “draw a girl wearing a purple dress and blue flowers.” Now of course the prompt is in French, so I’m only assuming that based on what I saw the students drawing that’s what I can infer the prompt was, so it allowed the students to use a drawing feature to demonstrate their understanding of that French sentence.

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About Catherine Welch

Catherine Welch