Technology as a tool for access in Lynden Schools

Technology as a tool for access in Lynden Schools
Posted on 12/04/2018

Nicole Medcalf draws notes for her Lynden Middle School math classes directly into a class notebook that students can see from all points in the room and then access from home. With links to videos and complete access to classroom content, technology provides organized access to material, even when students aren’t sitting in Medcalf’s classroom. 

Whether the One Note program Medcalf champions — along with others across the district, such as Kevin Richins at Lynden High School —hands-on programming tools used by science teachers the district over, 3D engineering and design under the tutelage of John Grubbs at Lynden High School or the one-to-one laptop pilot project by Terry Kaemingk, Lynden Schools has continued embracing technology as a way to encourage academic engagement and increased access to information. 

 

“Technology can help create efficiency to access information,” says Elizabeth Hamming, Lynden Schools curriculum director. “We are pretty excited about the learning we see these tools help accomplishing.” Still, though, Hamming is quick to point out that learning “really still is about teacher skill, student need and the task they are trying to engage in together.”

 

As the district looks to create a more robust community dialogue around the use of technology on a districtwide scale, individual teachers have taken personal interests in exploring the benefits of technology in the classroom to help students access fresh ways of learning as they prepare for real-world career opportunities. 

 

Medcalf says technology allows students to streamline effort and collaborate more easily. The need for binders, textbooks and worksheets can disappear thanks to technology allowing students to more easily organize information. Then, add in the ability for students to collaborate on projects even when not in the same room and students can get a taste of a real-world situation. “We have a global community where people are working in different places on a project,” she says. “Getting students to work on a project in the same room is not always easy.” 

 

As a start, Medcalf uses One Note to keep students organized and give them access to material when not in the classroom. If absent, they can still look over the day’s lesson. Parents can check in on what students are learning and stay connected to the content and their child’s education. 

 

Kaemingk, who has piloted a program that allows an in-room laptop for each of his middle school students, says that access to technology creates remediation and enrichment opportunities for all students. He can allow students to access Khan Academy content for independent learning, Code.org resources for enrichment opportunities or teacher-generated tutorials that turn into a resource for access either at school or at home. The technology allows students to access rich resources, Kaemingk says, in content areas such as discovery Tech and Mystery Science for science and Achieve3000 for language arts. 

 

“Technology allows students to work in teams on the same project in real time,” he says. “This is great practice for many career choices in their future. Technology raises the level of student interest in academics. The rich resources at their finger-tips is engaging.” 

Hamming says the ability to gain access to information quicker and easier also allows teachers the ability to individualize learning content while creating more accessibility, such as technology making texts readable for all students, no matter any learning challenges. 

 

“We are not claiming technology itself transforms anything, it is the human being using it,” she says. “The relationship between the teacher, student and task is still primary. But you want to give the best tools you can. The tool can transform the task, but the task is still up to the teacher, student and purpose.” 

 

Districtwide, all teachers have been able to convert aging desktops into current laptops, making it easier to integrate technology into their classrooms and collaborate together in professional development settings. For students, laptop carts in every school allow classrooms to share laptops and more readily access new content. 

 

Moving forward, expect Lynden Schools to engage the community on technology discussions, all the while understanding technology serves as a tool to create access to modern learning.