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Talking and Teaching Technology

Digital learning sounds like a teacher’s dream. But tech savvy kids and their devices present a whole new set of challenges. On Tuesday, a group of about 200 educators from around the state participated in a summit to discuss the latest digital teaching tools and strategies at Grand Prairie High School. The event was organized by Discovery Education, the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

This year, every student at Coppell High School received an iPad – an idea that just about every student and most teachers were happy about. Superintendent Jeffrey Turner said he and teachers had to buckle up.

“It’s like giving them the keys to an Indy car. They are not going to drive it like your teachers did – one step at a time,” said Turner. “They’re going to run off the track and they’re gonna go faster than you’ve ever seen them before.”

Turner’s words of caution resonated with other educators who filled the auditorium at the summit on digital learning. Susan Simpson Hull, superintendent of the Grand Prairie Independent School District, said she still feels like a digital newcomer. But that’s not the way she describes her students.

“Even our kids who are coming to us living in poverty still come to us with a digital knowledge,” Simpson said. “They know that they can find information on an iPhone. They know that when they go into the retail market, the information is there in a computer.”

“All of this technology doesn’t mean kids can’t still learn the old-fashioned way,” said Jolie Barker, a McKinney third grade teacher, whose class was broadcast live to the audience in Grand Prairie.

On the screen, the audience watched as her students assembled into different groups. One of those groups used some well-known tools to research the problem they were asked to solve.

“So here we have two real microscopes and then a virtual microscope,” Barker explained. “One side has solids that they’re looking at and one side has liquids that they’re looking at.”

The kids peered into the microscopes and also used an iPad to look at images of what was under the microscopes. The key, said Barker, is to merge the old school with new technology. And, still make it fun for students.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.