For many adults, memories of elementary school include pencil shavings, chalk dust and paper scraps. But memories for students in the Kirksville R-III School District might look a little different.
At Kirksville's Ray Miller Elementary School , third- though fifth-graders are using iPads to take a reading test. The test is taken to score the student’s reading comprehension level. The Kirksville School District is experimenting with the tablets to see if they will be an effective tool to enhance student learning.
“Before they would have to leave the classroom and go to a testing center where our computer lab is," Kirksville School Board Member Neal Chamberlain said. "Now, what we have is we’ve purchased tablets, iPads, and the kids can take the assessment right in the classroom and then there’s no need for them to leave."
But Ray Miller is the only school within the Kirksville School District that has strong wireless computer connections. The other five schools within the district have more dead spots — or areas where wireless internet connections drop out.
“The priority is to get us set up to where folks can actually integrate technology without the troublesome glitches that we currently run into," Kirksville High School Principal Randy Mikel said.
Slow Internet and older technology have interrupted learning in the classroom.
“There’s finally been a change in emphasis on technology and education, and I think people are finally seeing, as 21st century students, we're responsible for their technology use," Maria Bradshaw, technology educator and chair of the school district's technology committee.
Bradshaw had retired, but the district recently hired her back to train teachers on how to use technology in the classroom.
Chamberlain said new technology can be frustrating for teachers who don't receive it, but don't know how to apply it to their lessons. Chamberlain, he said, can help teachers integrate technology into lessons.
“She knows how to turn on various things and get the printers to work and the smart boards to work and those sorts of things,” said Chamberlain.
Each Kirksville school has a laptop cart including 25-50 laptops. Now, students have to plug a physical cable into the laptops to access the internet. But Chamberlain said with this plan, that will change — students will be able to connect to the Internet via wireless connection.
He said this change ultimately benefits the students.
“We don’t want to just buy technology for technology’s sake," Chamberlain said. "The technology should engage the students in learning and help them as far as encouraging their learning and their learning outcomes."
Other parts of the plan include updating servers, improving switches in their buildings and getting a higher bandwidth. Overall, the plan costs $300,000 and is paid for by money previously set aside to work on maintenance projects like this.