Columbia public schools use new technology in classrooms

Dec 13, 2013

Credit Brad Flickinger / Flickr

Grants for laptops and iPads in recent years have put more technology in the hands of Columbia Public Schools students .

In Smithton Middle School students in Nellie Schrantz’s orchestra class clap in time with a music scale displayed on an interactive whiteboard.

The whiteboard, branded as “Smart Board”, is connected to a computer and overhead projector to allow students and teachers to use special marker-styluses and their hands to interact with the projected computer screen.

Mary Painter is the lead technician for Columbia Public Schools. She said some Smithton classrooms received laptops four years ago as part of a grant written by Media Specialist Leader Kerry Townsend.

“They brought in laptops to enable writing as well as the history portion. And since that grant is over now they’ve distributed them throughout the building and they’re using them in that way, in the classrooms,” Painter said.

Smithton students in Lina Abdul Wahid’s Language Arts class use these laptops to research a World War 2 history paper while Wahid guides them on a Smart Board.

Smart Boards, along with iPads and laptop and desktop computers, are popping up in school's as part of the district's plan use more educational technology in Columbia’s public schools.

Over at Midway Heights  Elementary, fourth grader use iPads to map out a trip. This is the first year where iPads are used, one for every student, in every fourth grade class in Midway Heights.

Julie Nichols is manager of Instructional Technology at Columbia public schools. She said Midway is unusually technologically enhanced for an elementary school because of the teachers and faculty‑‑ all go through year-long technology training to insure a uniform tech curriculum.

“They were recommended by the different instructional technology specialists and we worked with the principal to see if the principal would approve of this because we’re not changing anything the teachers teach, we’re just giving them a different tool for the kids to use with their resources,” Nichols said.

In another Midway fourth grade class, students use hand-held clickers to solve math problems in a timed test. Their results are then wirelessly sent to the classroom’s Smart Board, where the scores are graphed and compared.

Nichols said that the infrastructure, especially wireless internet, is also an important part of supporting new technology in schools.

“We are so much farther ahead of the game than some of the other districts. No matter how fast we were putting it out in technology services we needed it faster and that’s really what’s driven a lot of the one-to-one initiatives is now that every kid in every building can get on to the wireless network. We’re just trying to open the doors to accommodate anyone’s different style of learning.,“ Nichols said.

While there is currently only a one-to-one iPad program at Midway’s fourth grade, Nichols said she hopes to see more one-to-one technology initiatives in the future. 

This story originally aired as part of Under the Microscope, a weekly program about science, health, and technology in mid-Missouri.