Tech tools help students take charge of learning

From “smart” boards to Chromebooks, 21st-century classrooms look very different than when today’s parents were students themselves.

In most Herkimer CSD classrooms, interactive whiteboards have the ability to run apps, play videos and send and receive information.

It’s this last piece that makes interactive whiteboards (often called “smart” boards) a key part of a new approach to teaching and learning. Personal devices such as Chromebook laptops and iPads can “read” the information from the interactive whiteboard, putting it right in front of each student.

Read more: Students solve math puzzle via Google Hangout

Tools for all learners

Far from being just flashy toys, these tools have a serious aim: to help each and every student learn as effectively as possible.

“Lecture-style presentations are effective for some students, but not all,” explained Herkimer CSD technology coordinator Ryan Orilio. “This way, everybody can learn the same content, but that learning can happen in a lot of different ways.”

This means differentiation — ensuring that students can learn the material, regardless of ability. It also means personalization — allowing students to learn in the way that’s most effective for them.

While it’s always been possible for teachers to differentiate and personalize their material, Orilio says tools such as “smart” boards and Chromebooks make it easier, and more effective, while freeing up teachers to work one-on-one with students.

One size doesn’t fit all

At the same time, these digital tools help students get immediate feedback on their work. This way, both students and teachers know right away if a concept has been mastered, or where there’s more work to be done.

As Orilio sees it, it’s about moving beyond a “one size fits all” approach while upholding the district’s mission of providing an atmosphere for learning that is at once challenging and secure.

“We want to get the most out of teaching, and learning,” he said. “This way, the teacher is the facilitator of the learning, but the students are taking control of their own learning.”

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