A-W teachers are learning technology tips to enhance teaching

Posted February 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

By Julie Ann Madden

From large classroom and miniature individual dry erase boards to iPads and laptop computers — that is what the 1:1 Initiative has meant to both Akron-Westfield teachers and students.

The 1:1 Initiative has helped eliminate cheating among students in a classroom setting and instant correction of work has built more confidence in academic ability to succeed, Akron-Westfield mathematics teacher Todd Colt told the school board at their Jan. 13 meeting.

Colt showed board members how he used computer software programs to enhance lessons in a variety of mathematics classes such as Seventh Grade Math, Algebra I and Personal Finance.

“If you would have asked me four years ago if I would be doing a technology presentation, I would have laughed at you,” said Colt, explaining his teaching transition from having students work out math problems on the large dry erase boards on the walls of his classroom to using the hand-held iPads and Macbook Air computers.

We used to have students line up along the walls to work out problems, he said, but some students have anxiety issues as everybody can see their struggles. With the miniature dry erase boards, that situation improved as only the individual student and teacher saw the student’s work.

In addition, Colt used an LED projector to display the math problems for students to work on in class. However, students were working on the same problems, and some would copy the answers from each other instead of learn how to do each of the problems themselves.

Still it was better because Colt could use computer software-designed math problems instead of coming up with them on his own. Therefore, increasing the variety of problems for his students.

This was also a good tool for assessing students’ understanding of math concepts taught, said Colt, adding he would either print off the answer key or use the LED projector and enlarge it so all could see the answer key on a large dry-erase board.

This “old” method cost the district about $100 for math teachers Colt, Jill Schroeder and Mike Baker to have and use. The software covered Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and II plus seventh and eighth grade math lessons. However, it didn’t have Senior Math options.

“This is old technology but very valuable technology,” said Colt, explaining the “new” technology he uses is the computer software, BrainGenie.

The software has eliminated opportunities for students to copy each other’s work instead of doing their own math problems, he said, explaining students get random problems — different on each iPad or MacBook Air computer.

“This software was free,” said Colt, noting it does have some “bugs” such as the software has compatibility issues with iPads but works well on the MacBook Air computers. It also limits students to solving each problem within five minutes.

An advantage of this program is that is has special features which allow teachers to check on individual students’ progress math problem by math problem, he said. Plus as soon as a student submits an answer, he or she knows immediately if was correct or incorrect.

Colt told the board he hadn’t realized how important this was to students.

Colt sets a points value for each problem that students get right and another for a wrong answer. Then he sets a total of points students much accumulate before they are finished with each assignment.

Furthermore, there are instructional aspects to this software that teach students how to do certain math skills but not necessarily why it is done that way, said Colt.

Although he couldn’t say students were learning math concepts faster, as Colt explained he was actually two weeks behind in lesson plans than he was a year ago at this time, “I think we’re doing a lot of things better.”

And the great part was the BrainGenie software program was free.

Programs like this are now available for teachers to supplement their lessons, and only available because students have computers and iPads in their hands.

In other business, the school board:

• Unanimously approved increasing the insurance benefit from $520 to $550 in the district’s Early Retirement Policy.

In addition, they approved the district’s Smoke, Tobacco and Drug Free Environment Policy.

• Unanimously approved adding a bus pickup stop in the Elk Point-Jefferson School District per the agreement from that school district. It was noted this bus stop is not in the former Greater Hoyt School District but right across the line into the Elk Point-Jefferson School District.

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