No longer are tech devices forbidden in Northwest Indiana schools as many were a few short years ago. Now, more region students are taking advantage of the full social networking platform that includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and texting, as well as their own school-issued computer — and using that technology in the classroom.
This will be the first year Tri-Creek School Corp. offers take-home laptops to about 900 Lowell middle and 1,200 high school students, said Jay Blackman, Tri-Creek's director of information and educational technology.
Tri-Creek joins the School Town of Munster in its computer take-home program. The Lake Ridge Schools and the School City of Hobart also offer a one-to-one computer program, and Hobart also allows students to bring their own device. The School City of East Chicago offered take-home laptops for a while, but then canceled the program because of the large number of lost and stolen units.
Union Township School Corp. Superintendent John Hunter said Porter County superintendents have discussed offering students computers, but no school district in the county is offering it at this time.
"The New Tech effort is the driving force behind our move to one-to-one computers," Tri-Creek's Blackman said.
The district, which is partnering with Apple for its laptops, continues to encourage students to bring their own devices, including iPods and tablets, Blackman said.
Blackman said administrators also are working on a program where students will become certified to repair technological devices — certification that could land them a job after high school.
Lowell High School teachers Kevin Deal and John Becker have done creative classroom projects involving Twitter and working with students in communicating with one another in class, Blackman said.
Trish Stanton, a Three Creeks Elementary School fifth-grade teacher, said she uses Edmodo.com in the classroom. She said it is a secure site created to be used in education.
Hobart teachers including Alex Ramos, Matt Whiteman, Christine Reinholt and kindergarten teacher Leslie Maxwell, also are making use of social media in the classroom.
Maxwell said she uses it mostly as a tool to keep in touch with parents. Reinholt, Hobart High School Advanced Placement English teacher, said they mostly use social media for the Google apps for education.
"Primarily that's the way I do my writing assignments. I share a document with them, and they can make comments on it or if they are working on an assignment and get stuck, they can leave me a note and I can go in there and make comments," Reinholt said.
Curtis Bonk, a professor of instructional systems technology at Indiana University at Bloomington who authored "The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education," said, "We have moved from awareness and resistance to the stage of being aware and understanding the possibilities of technology."