Great Salt Bay Community School is offering students new and innovative ways to learn through the integration of technology into the classroom.
“Students are using the technology and programs we’ve provided them to build foundational skills they’re going to use for the rest of their lives,” said GSB Technology Coordinator K.J. Flewelling.
Flewelling is responsible for maintaining the hardware and the network of the school, while Kassie Lincoln, the technology integrator for the school, works with teachers to utilize technology in the classroom.
Each grade level uses different programs to maximize learning opportunities, Lincoln said. The kindergarten classes use applications to learn letter and shape recognition, while the first- and second-grade students are learning how to operate an iPad camera to record themselves telling a story.
When students reach third grade, they are given a school email address and are introduced to Google Apps, Lincoln said. The students can use Google Docs to work together on projects and receive immediate feedback from teachers.
The programs are specialized to the grade level, but can be individualized to fit each student’s specific learning needs.
“If a student is struggling with recognizing a certain letter combination, the program will stay in that unit until the student masters it,” Flewelling said.
The school has to meet the International Standards for Technology Education, Flewelling said. One of the components of the standards is teaching the concept of digital citizenship.
“(Lincoln) has brought in a strong digital-citizenship curriculum for all the grades this year, which is so important,” Flewelling said. “She’s teaching the kids about how to conduct themselves in this digital world, and it’s a lesson that will follow them even after they leave here.”
At the beginning of the school year, GSB purchased a 3-D printer, which teachers have integrated into their curriculum. Students in fifth and sixth grade have used the printer to create model plant and animal cells. The printer has also been used to make model dinosaur fossils for the kindergartners using scans of fossils found online.
“It’s hands-on, project-based learning that encourages critical thinking and really gets the students excited about what they’re learning about,” Flewelling said.
Flewelling said the learning extends outside the classroom, as some of the students have started to pursue projects beyond the curriculum. Lincoln started a group of fourth-grade students in an accelerated coding program. The program consisted of four units, which the students finished within the week.
“They said they were working ahead and doing it at home because it was so fun,” Lincoln said. “They’re enjoying what they’re learning to do so they don’t think of it as homework.”
Students have also taken over the responsibility of updating the classroom website of fifth-grade teacher Dan Hupp, Lincoln said. The website needs to be updated daily with homework assignments and learning goals.
“They’re working on it every day, and it’s becoming second nature to them now,” Lincoln said.
Some of the students in eighth grade record podcasts about life at GSB and cover topics such as bullying and sports. The students edit and post the podcasts on the school website, where they can be streamed.
Eighth-grader Benji Pugh used the 3-D printer to create a Pythagorean cup, which empties itself when it is filled. Pugh made a video for his YouTube page to demonstrate how the cup works.
“This is something he did on his own just because he wanted to see if he could make it work,” Flewelling said. “We have students who are making their own how-to videos and study guides without being told to do so. They’re learning to use the technology to share their knowledge, and this is a movement that is only going to continue to grow.”
Flewelling said he hopes to one day see Google Expedition, a program that creates 360-degree renderings of historical sites and expeditions to take students on guided “virtual field trips,” integrated into the classroom.
“We’re always thinking ahead and reading about what is next for educational technology,” Flewelling said. “We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve as much as possible to provide the best learning opportunities for our students.”