Area educators got a look at the future Wednesday.
Wilmington Area Junior Senior High School hosted representatives from eight districts in Lawrence and Mercer counties to demonstrate how the district uses technology in the classroom.
And Wilmington is on the cutting edge as the first 1:1 district in Lawrence County, which means that beginning this school year Wilmington has provided a digital device to every student in grades kindergarten through 12.
It is also one of only 186 Google Reference Districts in the world. This means it gets to test new Google software before it becomes available publicly.
One of the requirements of the partnership with the software company is that Wilmington opens its doors regularly to other districts to showcase new classroom software, according to Michael Wright, who serves as principal at the high school. He said this was the first such event at Wilmington but there will be more in the future, probably annually.
Wright said grades five through 12 were showcased and some 20 middle and high school teachers opened their classrooms so the visitors could observe the technology being used.
“The staff at Wilmington has been really creative in coming up with ways to teach with technology,” Wright said.
Visitors were able to visit participating classrooms to observe digital lessons in progress in various subjects, listen to eight teachers give presentations on the successes they have had in bringing technology into the classroom, hear administrators explain how the district came to participate in the program, and take part in a question-and-answer session.
High school English teacher Jeanna Copper said that her English 12 and English Advanced Placement language and composition classes were open to the visitors in the morning. She said they were able to observe her students using their “Digital Interactive Notebook” in which the teacher and students are on the same page, so to speak.
She said she teaches her classes on writing research papers by “using Google slides and pushing them out,” explaining this means she electronically sends a worksheet to every student in the class so they are all looking at the same thing. But unlike a traditional paper worksheet, she can modify and augment it, take notes on it, and provide links to research and other types of media
In the afternoon, Copper was one of the teachers who gave a presentation to the visitors. Her subject was using digital applications to grade student work and provide meaningful feedback on student assignments.
She explained that she can provide recorded comments and add notes and written feedback on a student assignment.
“It’s nice because there is a record of my comments,” she explained, unlike handwritten notes which might be hard to decipher or not even noticed.
James Geramita, who teaches eighth grade math and algebra, had his classroom open so the visitors could observe how he uses Google Classroom.
He said the free web service allows him to make a video of any lesson, which can then be accessed by students.
This makes a major difference for students who miss a class due to sickness, sports or other school activities or even students who want to review the lesson. He said students who missed the class can access the video which is a Microsoft Powerpoint slideshow. Although they will not see any faces they will hear the teacher’s voice as well as the voices of any students asking questions.
Geramita said the technology, which he started using last year, “is extremely beneficial to students who miss a day,” He said they are held accountable for viewing the video of classes they have missed, if he taught a new lesson that day. And every student has an electronic device on which they can download and view the video.
“I even use Google Classroom for the baseball team to get the roster out and update contact information," he said.
Copper, whose students have used the electronic Chromebooks in all her four years at Wilmington, said teachers use the technology “to enhance student learning” although they try to find a balance and sometimes students still write their work by hand.
She said other districts seem to be moving in the direction Wilmington has gone and she feels fortunate to be in a district which has provided electronic devices to every student.
“We are excited to help people understand what we have done and how they can improve their instruction,” she said.
Overseeing Wednesday’s event were Wright, Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Matty and Middle School Principal George Endrizzi.