Technology inspired education

May 23, 2007

Parents whose children used computers in the eMINTS classrooms this school year say the experience has helped their reading, their motivation and their technology skills.

Skyline Elementary School third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students showed their parents year-long projects and conducted some demonstrations during a showcase this week.

The eMINTS (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) program allows teachers to use technology daily in the class, where students share computers to work on projects. Students also learn to work together.

In Kathy Garrison’s fourthgrade classroom, Katy Wolfram, 10, looked for clip art of men to decorate a Power Point presentation about her father.

Her father, Bryan Wolfram, sat next to Katy, watching her assemble the presentation. “The stuff they’ve learned, it’s way more advanced than when we were kids,” he said.

His daughter had learned things this year that he learned when he worked for the Air Force, he said. “I think it just gives her that much more advantage,” Wolfram said.

In Sonya Schnicker’s thirdgrade classroom, the students used software to assemble graphic organizers of research questions.

The students had to research a topic, asking five questions and then finding the answers. Then they organized the questions and answers in a flow-chart design on the computers.

The third-grade students share laptop computers. In older grades, students share personal computers, with two students per computer.

Fifth-graders used the same graphic organizer software to work on presentations about books. They had to describe each character’s traits, using examples from the book, and give details about the plot, such as the escalating action and the climax.

Kirsten Finnell, 11, was showing her mom, Stephanie Finnell, the program in Tina Vansell’s fifth-grade classroom.

“She knows more than I do,” Stephanie Finnell said of her daughter’s computer skills. Kirsten demonstrated her knowledge by asking her mom if she’d seen Google Earth, which was new to Stephanie Finnell.

“How do you not know what Google Earth is?” Kirsten asked her mom incredulously.

“I just don’t,” Stephanie Finnell said.

With a few clicks of the mouse and some typing, Kristen showed her mom how Google Earth can zoom into any location, including their home, using map and satellite photos.

“I wish they could take (the computers) with them to middle school,” said Stephanie Finnell.

Jackie Slack’s daughter, Cheyenne Culbertson, 11, is in fifth-grade in Sara Nichols’ room. “I think it’s great,” Slack said of her daughter’s experience with the computers. “She’s improved so much.”

She said Cheyenne is reading better now than she did two years ago, and her confidence has improved as well. “I think it’s an excellent program for the kids.” Slack has no computer at home, and said she’s glad her daughter can work with one so intensely at school. “She’s way more motivated, and more outspoken,” Slack said.