A teacher who turns his class assignments into an iBook. Students who develop apps for mobile devices. QR codes that direct students to their teacher’s home page.
These are just some examples of how some students are learning and keeping up to date with the latest technology. Gone are the days of a teacher standing in front of a classroom lecturing students. These days, students are using their smart phone or laptops.
“This is what they love,” says Mallory Malone, who teaches 8th grade U.S. History at Tidwell Middle School in Roanoke. “When I introduced TodaysMeet to them, they wanted to know when they could use it again. They’re so use to technology. It’s second nature to them.”
TodaysMeet is an online site that allows students to have real-time conversations – ask questions about or give feedback on a particular assignment. Some call it a virtual classroom.
It’s this kind of classroom instruction that the 23 school district members of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium are advocating makes more sense in assessing a student’s knowledge and skills than high-stakes testing such as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.
The group, which the state Legislature created in 2011, is seeking waivers from state and federal testing requirements.
On Tuesday, members of that consortium and business leaders met at Tidwell to hear about the latest digital learning innovations in their school districts. They touted initiatives like the one-to-one laptop program in Irving ISD, which distributes laptops to more than 12,000 teachers and students.
In Lewsiville ISD, a teacher explained in a video how he created an iBook containing all of his classroom assignments. Kids think iPads are cool, so there’s less disruption in the classroom, he says.
In a class called Career Portals at Tidwell, 7th grader Acelynn Medrano, describes how she and a classmate learned to make a radio commercial about a truck convention. They learned how to write a script, how to read it persuasively to an audience and how to cut and copy the audio.
“Just to have that knowledge and skill as you get older is a good skill to have,” Medrano says.
Tidwell principal Shane Conklin said these hands-on skills are key to a student’s future.
“It’s not just the standardized test that will tell us whether our kids are ready for college, ready for the career force or anything they decide,” Conklin says. “It’s what skills have they developed to be able to work with people, to be able to analyze a problem and create a solution.”
Karen Rue, superintendent for Northwest ISD, said members of the consortium are keeping close tabs on the state Legislature and whether it ultimately grants the group the flexibility it’s seeking.
“Kids are learning how to meet the high rigorous standards and they’re learning where they fall and they’re learning to self-evaluate and to evaluate each other’s work," she says. "They’re learning to raise the bar."