Sioux City Community Schools is making momentous strides in closing digital divides. It has been implementing technological advances throughout the district for a couple of years now; slowly, and often depending on the initiative and willingness of individual teachers.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to implementing these digital improvements has been staff comfort with learning how to use these new tools. That stepping stone comes in two categories: teachers have to learn how to use the tool itself – power switch, running functions, using tools to their greatest potential, collecting and using the data they can produce. Then there is how and when to use them in the actual teaching process. You can imagine it would take a few tries to transition your methods if, for example, you’ve been teaching fractions the same way for 25 years and now you are to use new hardware.
Thankfully, this is the type of barrier that the District has been able to overcome rather well through staff training. There are labs at the Education Service Center, where the Administrative offices are now located, downtown, that allow for group trainings for teachers. The Tech Department is also located there, and they appear to be proactive in problem solving for their initiatives.
Embracing the E-Tools
There are some teachers who truly embrace the usefulness and capacity of tools like their ability to publish their own webpages through the District site. Tina Buhrman, a teacher at Joy Elementary has been held up as a terrific example of this, and has been praised for using this technique as a pathway to communicate with students, and to significantly improve connections with parents.
There have been a variety of other digital age tools dispersed throughout the district. ‘Smart boards,’ are kind of 21st century chalk boards. ‘Responders’ are pads stationed with each student that allow the teacher to ask a question and receive answers from each student digitally, almost instantaneously. The educator can immediately gauge whether the students are understanding the material being presented.
Investment in Improvement
While these are significant investments in classroom improvement, they vastly improve the ability for teachers to respond to the students’ needs. The ability to teach to a diverse pool of learning and thinking styles of our students increases the students’ capacity to learn, and improve the enjoyment of the learning experience. These are important factors in producing children who have learned how to learn and think, not just what to learn and think. These are they types of skills they will need in the jobs and lifestyles of the future.