Hayden Valley Elementary School teacher Kathy Deepe uses a Smart Board on Sept. 6 during the first day of classes in Hayden. The boards are one of several new pieces of technology that were introduced in the school district this year.

Photo by Scott Franz

Hayden Valley Elementary School teacher Kathy Deepe uses a Smart Board on Sept. 6 during the first day of classes in Hayden. The boards are one of several new pieces of technology that were introduced in the school district this year.

New technology helps Routt County schools strive for success

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— Six years ago, James Earley wasn’t ready to claim that the Hayden School District had technology that could match or surpass many other school districts on the Western Slope.

But in the Hayden High School computer lab last week, the district’s technology director was comfortable making that declaration.

“When I first started here, there were 40 Macs that barely worked. That was all that was here,” Earley said as students filled the hallways for the first day of school. “Today, everything has changed. I don’t think there are many schools near us that have as much technology as we have here in Hayden.”

In the lab, Earley pointed to several new pieces of equipment that he said are improving the learning environment for students. He fired up one of several new computers in the district this year and logged into a school-wide video-on-demand system that gives students and teachers access to 45,000 educational movies and documentaries.

“Today, I like to say we’re the little school with the big technology,” he said. “I’m very proud of how far we’ve come.”

Drawing from a variety of funding sources this year that included the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board, the Morgridge Family Foundation and the school district itself, Earley was able to secure new laptops for teachers and new educational software and equipment for students that he thinks will change the way they learn.

“I’d like to say I see the grades improve because of the new equipment, but I don’t measure it,” he said. “What they do is increase student engagement, and it makes them want to learn.”

Earley said there are about 2.2 students for every computer in the district. Every classroom in Hayden also boasts a Smart Board, many of which already were being used when classes started last week. Smart Boards are interactive whiteboards that can be paired with computers, among other uses.

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Hayden Secondary Schools science teacher Greg Richards quizzes his class Tuesday about weather patterns as he monitors thunderstorms on a Smart Board using Doppler radar. Every classroom in Hayden has one of the interactive whiteboards.

Seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher Greg Richards spent his first day of class monitoring Doppler radar on his Smart Board, which helped track the rain clouds outside his classroom. He then used an interactive map to quiz his students about the weather pattern as it moved between Grand Junction and Salida. Down the hallway in Ty Zabel’s world history class, the board was being used to quiz students on the location of Middle Eastern countries.

“This is going to be awesome,” Zabel said about the new technology. “I really believe it’s going to get these kids excited about learning.”

And this year’s tech improvements weren’t limited to Hayden.

Funding new technology

This year, the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board approved $50,000 worth of innovation grants that are being distributed to all three Routt County school districts.

The grants required that teachers develop their own proposals outlining how the technology would be used to benefit their classrooms.

Citing technology’s potential to improve the learning experience of students in her special education class, Steamboat Springs Middle School resource teacher Erin Dargis successfully applied for a $7,500 grant from the Fund Board. She’ll use the money to buy iPads.

“I found that they stimulate a student’s learning and can increase their independence,” she said about the popular tablet computer made by Apple. “They’re more motivated to use it than read a textbook.”

Later this month, Dargis will start to incorporate the iPads into her students’ curriculum. In the meantime, the students are using one of the iPads that was purchased for the middle school staff this year.

“I’ve already noticed their keyboarding skills have increased,” she said. “Math is also coming alive for them.”

Measuring success

While teachers and principals haven’t measured how the new technological tools are affecting their students’ academic performance, some said they’re working on ways to show those who funded the technology that the gadgets indeed are worth the cost.

At Soda Creek Elementary School in Steamboat, Principal Michele Miller said that teachers are just starting to learn about the new technologies they are introducing to students and that they’ll be working on a way to quantify success.

“We haven’t gotten to that level yet, but eventually I bet we could,” she said.

She said Smart Boards and seven iPads given to the school’s teachers this year already are being used to revamp the curriculum. Students are dissecting frogs digitally on the touchpad devices, and they’re walking up to Smart Boards to participate in math lessons.

“I’ve observed multiple lessons where kids are using the Smart Boards, and I really feel they increase a student’s engagement,” Miller said.

Steamboat Springs Fund Board President Kristi Brown said Thursday that the schools must prove the tools the educators are purchasing with the grants are a benefit for students.

“Accountability is something that the Fund Board has felt very strongly about, and we’re working to improve that,” she said. “When the teachers apply for these grants, you’ll see a lot of information about what the technology is going to be used for.”

She said the board is continuing to receive positive feedback from teachers and principals about the impact of the new equipment like Smart Boards and iPads, and will work together to put more measuring tools in place that might give educators an idea of how they are affecting a student’s academic performance.

“We’ve gotten great feedback so far, and it is evident these new tools are delivering curriculum in a more efficient manner while increasing a student’s participation,” Brown said.

— To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email ScottFranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Technology is interesting because it is so often popular, but so rarely shows up in improved test scores.

Over simplistic explanation would appear to be that improved scores requires a teacher able to have higher expectations of the students and is able to teach and inspire the students to meet those expectations. Meanwhile, tech allows more professional appearing presentations so things look better but actually does little to improve learning. I note how today kids play animated games trying to interest them in knowing multiplication tables. Meanwhile, I had a teacher that gave out sheets of problems 5 minutes before recess and you got to go to recess when you finished or got the unfinished problems as homework. Now that was an incentive. And paper is the great open ended approach to solving (4951 among other things is 5050-1) while computers tend to suggest a particular method for solving.

I also think that "student participation" is over hyped. When a teacher is presenting information in a compelling manner (such as telling a great historical story) then stopping to get class participation is a waste of time and interrupts the interesting story. Class participation is better than having a teacher that has lost the class and is talking to no one in particular, but it is hardly the ideal.

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freerider 3 years, 1 month ago

Scott

Hayden used to be the best at Cattle insemination now they have an IT dept. because they hired somebody with an IQ. over 50 ...

These kids might have a chance at an IT gig if they choose at least they have that choice now

You know nothing about learning since your cup is very very full of itself

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ybul 3 years, 1 month ago

Yep, there's that attitude that agriculture is for the idiots. Unfortunately that is the widely held view of most, yet fails to comprehend the complexity of the systems involved. Thus we get the uneducated generally in ag, who follow the given model that is leading to topsoil depletion (carbon going back into the air as that topsoil was carbon but when exposed becomes to the air becomes CO2 again). Reading the date we are also getting food deficient in nutrients (50% vitamin loss in the past century or so) via this production system and possibly contributing to multiple problems because we try and fail to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator.

Maybe as Scott said the high tech is not really needed to keep the kids interest, excluding the fact that we try to teach all of our kids as if they are all the same.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

I was not implying that tech in schools was useless. Just that tech does not improve test scores. New York Times had one of their big articles on the subject and looked at an Arizona school district widely praised for how well they use tech and even visited by POTUS and yet they admit they do not see improving test scores.

And computers in the classroom is to becoming an IT professional what riding a bus is to becoming a diesel mechanic.

What is far more important are motivated students. Still by far the best predictor of student outcome is educational level of the parents - most kids learn what is expected of them.

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mavis 3 years, 1 month ago

Congratulations for Hayden!! This is a fantastic achievement and good job for using your resources WISELY!! Now the tricky part is keeping everything updated. When students and teachers rely and excel with the techology and become prepared for the new tech world it becomes a bit of a problem when it all turns into dinosaur tech.

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rhys jones 3 years, 1 month ago

While I applaud the choice of Apple for its superior video capabilities -- and while confessing my own Mac ignorance -- I gather Apple is pretty much Unix for Dummies, as smooth, user-friendly, and bug-free as it is. I wonder if anyone there is competent at the administration of Unix/Linux, and if classes might be offered in that, because that is where the industry is headed. Videos are nice; knowing the guts is better.

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