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Sheridan classroom technologically advanced

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Fifth-graders in Brenda James’ Sheridan Elementary classroom solved math problems Tuesday afternoon on a white board. While that’s not unusual, they were not using traditional dry-erase markers to write out equations. Instead, the students used a special stylus that communicates with an interactive projector hooked up with a computer in the classroom. A stylus is a “pen-shaped device used on a display screen to input commands or handwritten text or drawings,” according to dictionary.com. The students were also able to control the computer using the stylus. The interactive projector is just one of a few technological upgrades added to James’ classroom this year, which is a fourth- and fifth-grade combination class. The upgrades are funded through two grants the school received last year, according to Sheridan Elementary School Principal Kris Knutson. “Our idea was that we would outfit the school to be the first complete 21 st century school in the nation,” Knutson said. One grant was an economic development grant for $80,000 and the other for $10,000 was through the United Auburn Indian Community, according to Knutson. So far, the grants have meant the purchase of iPads, interactive projectors, document cameras and new furniture for the room. “Our intent was that the children would access their curriculum though the iPads,” Knutson said. “The teacher can see the kids’ iPad’s on her iPad, and if they are having a tough time on a problem, she can throw that up on the interactive wall and the kids can go up and do changes.” Knutson described the document camera as “the new overhead projector.” “You can put anything under a document camera and it takes a picture of the image and puts it up on the board,” Knutson said. The kindergarten- through third-grade classrooms at Sheridan Elementary also have the interactive projectors and document cameras but not iPads or new furniture. “At this point, her (James’s) classroom is our pilot classroom. We still have money to update the other classrooms but we are waiting until all of the bugs are worked out,” Knutson said. She explained why the fourth/fifth grade classroom was picked to be the school pilot. “They are older students and more apt to pick up the technology quickly,” Knutson said. The remaining grades will receive their iPads next school year, Knutson said. “The reason I went in this direction is because kids communicate through technology now,” Knutson said. “It’s in order to keep the kids engaged. They are used to moving fast and the technology allows them to move quickly.” James said the new technology in her classroom is familiar to her, because she worked with information technology before becoming a teacher. The students use the iPad’s for math and writing, according to James, and the classroom received the tablets in September. As the youth become more familiar with the iPad’s, James said, they will use them for additional assignments. “We are just now getting to the point where they can use them more frequently. Students can log into WiFi and we have it set up with protection, with sites that are blocked,” James said. “All of their reports in the spring will be done on their iPad’s, like the research and writing.” James said the goal she is building up to “is to be using them (iPads) pretty much the whole day.” “Right now, we use them a lot for writing and to take pictures to illustrate their writing,” James said. The fourth- and fifth-graders “love the technology,” James said. “They knew, coming into school, they would have the technology program and they were all excited to be here,” James said. Mackenze MacFarlane, 11, said she likes the interactive projector because “everyone can see what’s on the screen.” “It’s more fun than using a regular blackboard,” Mackenze said. Gage Kelly, 10, said he likes using the iPads to take notes. “It’s easier to do notes. You just type instead of write, and by typing, your hand doesn’t hurt,” Gage said. And Dakoda Hamilton, 11, said the technology “helps us learn better.”