Advanced technology at rural schools

2011-09-09T00:00:00Z 2011-09-12T13:00:05Z Advanced technology at rural schoolsBy Brian Williams Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 09, 2011 12:00 am  • 

KOUTS | Technology took center stage during a federal education official's visit to Kouts schools Thursday.

Palm Pilots to assess reading readiness, an eighth-grade math skills assessment program in the computer lab and hand-held devices used to take, store and manipulate scientific data were among the technology observed by John White, a rural outreach official with the U.S. Department of Education.

White's visit was an offshoot of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's annual "back to school" listening tour. Duncan spoke to region leaders in Merrillville.

School visits during the tour are designed to observe programs funded by the federal government and to gather feedback on what does and doesn't work, White said. As reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind Act approaches, differences between rural and urban schools need to be examined to support what rural schools are doing, White said.

White watched first-grader David Veschak identify letters for teacher Christina Magura as she input his answers immediately into a Palm Pilot. The assessment was an example of those given to students three times a year, Magura said.

Second-grade teacher Shelly Spagna explained how data from assessments is used. Her red, yellow and green color-coded progress monitoring allowed teachers to use flexible grouping of math students to bring them to grade level.

"It's a lot of testing," Spagna said in response to a question from White. "But I know exactly where my kids are."

On an interactive board, third-grade teacher Christine Paluch demonstrated a math problem solving method developed in Singapore.

Ninth-grade biology teacher Andrea Clinkenbeard facilitated her class's use of hand-held electronic devices and various sensors to record body temperature, heart rate and other data. The devices can graph the date and can be connected to computers for further work, she said.

White put in pitches for aiming to attend college in each of the classes he visited. Nationally, rural students are least likely to attend college, he said.

East Porter County School Corporation Superintendent Rod Gardin told White the district next year will implement a pilot study of tablet technology use that could eventually result in a textbook-free school.

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