Our View: High-tech schools on the right track
September 20, 2011
In a world that increasingly depends on sophisticated technologies and gadgets like smartphones and tablet computers, it's encouraging to see Routt County's school districts take aggressive steps to modernize their classrooms and the tools available to students.
Through grant funds, Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board monies and their own general fund accounts, the county's three public school districts have continued to add tools such as Smart Boards and iPads to classrooms. And teachers are finding new ways to take advantage of those technologies. The result is updated curriculums that, at least on the surface, seem likely to be more relevant to the world into which students emerge when they complete their secondary education.
We're smart enough to recognize that technological tools — some might call them toys — like Smart Boards and iPads aren't a substitute for many tried-and-true teaching methods. We're also aware of recent reports that suggest sophisticated classroom technologies don't necessarily equate to better test scores and increased student achievement.
But a high value should be placed on student participation, and perhaps the greatest strength of tools like Smart Boards and iPads is their ability to engage students in lessons and subject areas previously confusing or uninteresting to them.
Steamboat Springs Middle School resource teacher Erin Dargis told the Steamboat Today last week that she's already seen the value of iPads in her special education class.
"I found that they stimulate a student's learning and can increase their independence," she said. "They're more motivated to use it than read a textbook.
"I've already noticed their keyboarding skills have increased. Math is also coming alive for them."
Dargis will use a $7,500 grant she received from the Fund Board to purchase additional iPads for her class. The grant is part of a $50,000 allocation from the Fund Board for innovation grants that teachers in any of Routt County's three school districts can apply for. To receive a grant, teachers are required to develop their own proposals outlining how the technology would be used to benefit their students.
We're pleased to see the Fund Board, which allocates revenues from the city of Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education, use the money in a creative way to reward motivated teachers seeking to break the mold of traditional education. If a result is modern technology in our classrooms and engaged students, then our schools are on the right track.