Technology Continues To Grow in Education
School is a lot more than chalkboards and textbooks, in today's world. Part of that is because of the rising popularity of mobile devices like laptops and tablets. While these are increasing in school use, officials say having the technology is not enough. Teachers also have to know how to utilize it to help kids learn.
In February, 2014, 1,700 middle school students received laptops for school, through a federal "Race to the Top" grant. Since then, educators from around the state have been watching to see how it might improve education.
"What's really cool about that is that kids can really have the technology in their hands and be using the technology, themselves, and learning through the technology," Robert Sidford, 21st Century Learning Coordinator for Washoe County School District said.
Educators say the use of tablets and laptops has gotten students more involved and engaged in their studies.
"Things like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and especially on creativity," Sidford said.
State lawmakers passed the Nevada Ready 21 Plan during the 2015 legislative session. The $22 million funding will buy mobile devices for middle school students throughout Nevada, during the next two years. The goal is to supply all middle and high school students with either a tablet or laptop within six years.
"Obviously, it changes a number of things for parents and for teachers but I think we're seeing some positive efforts," Sidford said. "Especially, in terms of student discipline, in terms of student engagement in schools."
In order for these devices to work to their fullest potential, the schools need to be equipped with wireless internet. Less than two years ago, only nine Washoe schools had WiFi access. But after $12.5 million was allocated to upgrades to school infrastructure, 59 schools have wireless capabilities. The other 26 schools will have WiFi by May.
"It really begins the process for us of really moving towards a real digital world for our students," Sidford said.
Having that springboard is something Sidford says is critical for the future workforce and economy.
"We do know it's going to be a different world," Sidford said. "We do know that the digital technologies are just a part of the way we do business. So, preparing these kids for that world is part of our job."
Reading, writing and arithmetic are the foundations for education and Sidford says technology will not change that. He says there is a national movement, however, towards digital textbooks, either online or on a device.