Celebrating digital learning

MARSHALL – Marshall Public Schools will be part of the Second Annual National Digital Learning Day today, joining 50 states, nearly 25,000 teachers and millions of students who are celebrating the presence of technology in schools and spotlighting the digital learning that is taking place in classrooms across the country.

In recognition of Digital Learning Day, media specialist Diane Konjura and technology integrationist Vera Weber visited all the schools and various classrooms in the district in order to record different projects that have taken place this year. After interviewing and photographing random students from kindergarten to 12th grade, Weber and Konjura asked Jess Nelson of Studio 1 to combine them into one creative video.

“Teachers are going to see the actual video that we put together,” Konjura said. “It’ll be available on our website. We’re also going to have it available on Channel 1, the community channel.”

The media specialists encouraged community members to also help celebrate the day by going to the school’s website (www.marshall.k12.mn.us), clicking on “departments” and then going to “Digital Learning Day.”

“We just want to gain an awareness in our community as to what is happening digitally in our schools and how technology can be a great learning tool, as well as help students become ready for things beyond their high school years, whether it’s in a job or in post-secondary opportunities,” Konjura said.

In addition to watching the video, users can also access digital learning ideas and resources at the left of the “Digital Learning Day” page, as well as explore the many “classroom projects” highlighted by Weber and Konjura.

“We want to continue to grow with technology and learning,” Konjura said. “And it’s not even so much about the actual tool, whether it’s an iPad or what. It’s about how technology is being integrated into learning and how that is engaging students. How is that preparing our students to be better 21st century learners and be prepared for the work force as they get older?”

That’s what the duo was trying to portray in the video.

“It’s not just the materials,” Konjura said. “It’s everything. It’s the ways that kids are using it and the way teachers are embedding it into the classroom.”

Weber said she and Konjura challenged the teachers back in November and are proud of what many of them accomplished.

“Our challenge to the teachers way back in November was to step out of their comfort zone, to try something they’ve never tried before, even if it’s just one lesson,” Weber said. “I’m the technology integrationist, so I try to provide workshops that introduce different things. I’m surprised at the number of teachers who tried some of the new things. It was a good response from teachers.”

It can be a daunting task to try something new, but in light of the fact that technology is likely here to stay, it’s a good process for teachers to begin if they haven’t already, the specialists said.

“Students are constantly on their iPads or on their iPods on or digital devices, whether it’s a cell phone or whatever,” Konjura said. “They’re constantly using them. Then they come to school, and we’re asking them to put them away, to power down. You can’t do that.”

A number of classrooms were assisted this past year because of a TIGERSS (Technology Integration Generating Education and Real Student Success) grant awarded within the district. Kindergarten teachers Erica Hess and Sue Strautz received iPads and money to purchase a variety of new furniture to meet the students’ needs.

At the fourth-grade level at West Side Elementary, Vicki Myers and Kayla Kopitski share a set of iPads.

“For geometry, Kayla had the kids take their iPads around the building and find pictures with images that showed geometry shapes,” Konjura said. “Then they had to draw on the iPad to show where that geometric shape was in that pictures. She also had them state if they were intersecting lines, angles or what it was. They had to learn the vocabulary, go out and find the geometry shape and then match it up as to what it was. Then they also put it into the Animoto video.”

On the video, fourth-grader Emma Klinken shared her favorite thing to do with the iPads.

“My favorite thing to do is research and then making it into a project,” she said. “It’s kind of fun to just find stuff and read about it. When you’re doing it, you’re doing something fun, but you’re still learning.”

Seventh-grade students also used iPads in science teacher Carrie Sueker’s class at Marshall Middle School.

“I like using iMovie to make digital movies the best,” Garrett Hoff said. “I also like that you don’t really have to use paper so much, and you don’t have to carry so many things around with you.”

Seventh-grader Grant Martinson also commented on the video.

“I like the iMovies and that we can use the Internet a lot, to do research faster,” he said.

At Marshall High School, Brenda Kellen and Marcia Ivers also integrated technology into their classroom in different ways.

“You can paint on the nails on your app and move little objects onto them,” said Brooke Larsen, who is in Ivers’ digital multimedia class. “(Monday), I took a picture of my hand and I put it in there. We have to make everything ourselves, using Paint. Then you can try it out in real life, you know, in person. It’s quite the process.”

On Tuesday, Ryan Schultz was working on a practice project.

“You can draw on the picture using green, blue or red,” he said. “You can erase and you can do big dots and small dots. The goal is to learn how to be able to make your own app. It’s pretty cool stuff.”

Along with classmates Jeff Paskach and Danny West, Schultz made a well-received video recently.

“We were supposed to do an assignment about copyright, like a public service announcement, for this class,” Schultz said. “So my friends and I just like made a video.”

Stephen Womack pointed out that with technology, students have more at their fingertips.

“The best part about technology and the most beneficial part of learning with it is how dynamic the information can be,” Womack said. “If you have a textbook, you’re not open to all these other resources that are one the Internet. Say you’re using an iPad to read a digital textbook, you can go search topics that you’re not sure about or want to learn more about. It’s just easier to be current with that information, too.”

Not only do you have the most current information available to you, Womack said, you don’t have to switch from textbook to textbook.

“It’s really great,” he said. “It’s not just a key to be engaged more, but I feel like you remember things better. You have access to models and interactive things that in textbooks, you don’t really have. It’s just words on paper.”