Steamboat Springs Christian Heritage School fifth- and sixth-graders worked together Monday afternoon during computer class to create a PowerPoint presentation about technology.
Groups of two were assigned a letter from the word “technology” and asked to come up with an image that represented the word, such at “teachers” or “education.”
It was an exercise fifth-grader Silas Boatwright said would have been difficult last year.
“Last year, the computers weren’t like this,” Silas said while pointing to the Dell Latitude laptop he was using. “They were like old and sometimes didn’t work. This year is much easier.”
Things are better this year thanks in part to TIC, which donated 30 refurbished laptops to Christian Heritage School, said Dave Entwistle, the school’s administrator. He said the new laptops allowed the school to move 10- to 12-year-old laptops to other classrooms.
Entwistle said a survey of parents after last school year revealed that they thought their children could benefit from having better computers. Entwistle said the parents thought their children were lagging behind and not learning what they should in terms of computers and technology.
In addition to receiving the TIC laptops, the school also was given a $15,000 grant. Entwistle said Christian Heritage used a portion of the funding to buy new computer software that will allow parents to access a web portal on the school’s new website, which is expected to be launched soon.
Entwistle said the rest of the funding is being spent on other technology that will be incorporated into the classroom, such as projectors and Flip Video camcorders.
“It’s really preparing our kids for what they’re going to face in the world,” he said. “We’re in a technological age. Young people have to be tech savvy.”
What they’ll face in the world is a bit of an unknown, said Dallas McPheeters, the new computer teacher at Christian Heritage. McPheeters, who has a master’s degree in educational technology and also is an adjunct faculty member at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus, said it’s a particular challenge because technology changes so quickly.
“I feel like I’m Columbus on a ship with these guys. We’re exploring,” McPheeters said. “We have no idea what we will discover. We just know what direction we’ll go.”
In addition to his classes with K-12 students, McPheeters also is working with other teachers at Christian Heritage to incorporate technology into their classrooms. He said it’s important to give students skills that will translate to the 21st century.
For example, he engaged the fifth- and sixth-graders in a collaborative project Monday because that’s what they’ll see in the work world. McPheeters’ juniors and seniors are creating online accounts to manage information instead of storing them on computers. The students also are using social networking and media sites such as Twitter and YouTube.
“They know how to interact in the social web world,” he said. “But they don’t know how to use it to enhance their educations.”
His older students already were putting what they’d learned to good use. Senior Kirsten Williams has used her account at www.diigo.com, an information management site that she signed up for in McPheeters’ class, to bookmark and highlight information about colleges she’s considering.
“I think eventually I’ll be doing most of my management stuff on some type of technology,” she said. “The more I learn, the easier it is.”
Eventually, McPheeters said he would like to incorporate mobile devices and other forms of technology into the classroom. He also hopes to create a broadcast studio in an old art room that students can use to provide weekly school updates on YouTube.
In just the first few weeks of school, sixth-grader Katelynn Stone said she already has learned a lot about computers from McPheeters. She said that’s important.
“When you’re in high school and stuff, we’ll know what to do so we’re not lost,” Katelynn said.