This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
WESTTOWN — There’s no denying that technology is everywhere.
As younger and younger children get introduced to technology, the faculty and staff at the Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School want to try and help the students learn how to use the latest innovations in a positive manner.
The school participated in Digital Learning Day on Wednesday as part of a nationwide event to help narrow the digital divide between students outside of the school.
“It’s really all about showcasing innovative practices teachers are doing to help move their students forward and prepare them for their future by integrating digital tools purposefully,” said Nora Wheeler, principal of Westtown-Thornbury.
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Since Wheeler found out about Digital Learning Day a little late last year, she made sure everyone was well prepared with advanced notice this time around.
“I sent out a Digital Learning Day invitation,” she said. “I left (the teachers) with some ideas and then said the possibilities are endless and left it to them.”
Every grade-level classroom participated on Wednesday and each had its own unique approach.
For younger students, things weren’t too complex, such as in Sue Pinto’s kindergarten class, which compared and contrasted George Washington and Abraham Lincoln through the use of viewing an online scholastic news subscription, watching a movie about presidents and playing a game.
Something as simple as Skype became a big deal for second graders and Teresa Zobel’s class as they were able to meet another second grade class in Michigan.
“I was impressed that everybody participated and found a way to make it happen in their room,” Wheeler said. “Then there was the variety of things – some that it wasn’t that I didn’t expect it, but maybe not from the person who did it. It was great to see and it touched on every core subject area, including music.”
Matt Rogers, with his fifth grade class, used a green screen, an iPad and the DoInk app to create a promo video for the Jamestown colony in the 1600s.
“DoInk allows me to have students film in front of a green tablecloth and go back later and superimpose a background for it,” Rogers said. “Since our unit right now in social studies is all about early European exploration and colonization of the New World, I thought it would be a great way for them to take what they learned so much about in the Jamestown colony and put together a video showcasing what they know about the colony and encouraging more Europeans to come join.”
Rogers broke the video down into eight segments and appropriately divided his classroom into eight groups with three students each and assigned them a segment and let them write their own scripts.
“I told them we had eight different scenes,” he said. “I said we needed an introduction and a hook that’s going to get the viewer’s attention, another group had to explain where Jamestown was in the world and how to get there and another one was responsible for discussing the people they would find there.”
Once the video is completely finished, Rogers plans to post it online for the community and more to see what his students were able to do.
As he pointed out, that’s another positive from Digital Learning Day – the ability to share with the world something which could inspire another student or classroom to do.
“When I was growing up, whenever we created a project, it was for the teacher or it was going to go on our refrigerator at best,” Rogers said. “Now, if we create something, it’s going out to the world. That’s what Digital Learning Day is all about – share what you’ve done.”
With its continued success, Wheeler plans to continue to have the school participate in Digital Learning Day.
She feels that it not only allows the teachers to find new, creative ways to bring learning into the classroom, but it also helps prepare the students for their future school careers.
“In order to make school relevant, kids need to see that school looks a little bit like their real lives,” If they walk into a school and never see technology, there’s an instantaneous disconnect with their real life. Also, it’s to make it not just a token use of technology, but to make it so that it’s benefiting and adding to their daily functioning here. It’s what is key to us.”