New digital classroom highlighted at school board meeting

MARSHALL – Marshall School Board members had the opportunity to experience a hands-on lesson in a digital classroom during a presentation at the regular board meeting Tuesday.

Board members listened to the pilot program presentation given by Sandy Carpenter, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Marshall Middle School, and learned about day-to-day operations alongside four eighth-grade student volunteers – Mitchell Sueker, Joe Blanchard, Chasee Boyd and Zach Thompson.

“My purpose for this presentation was to show you what technology can do in the classroom,” Carpenter said. “We can still do classical learning, like looking up maps and reading text, but can add to it. Imagine what a full year of technology can do for a student.”

After researching new curriculum, Carpenter began exploring digital possibilities. She also found that the secretary of eduction was touting the merit of technology. That’s how the digital journey into her classroom began, Carpenter said.

Though she started the pilot program at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, Carpenter really didn’t have the opportunity to truly implement key components until the second quarter, when she “hit the good will jackpot.”

“We were able to round up old computers teachers had in their classroom,” Carpenter said. “Luckily for me, I had that support.”

Instead of less time with students, Carpenter said she’s found that using a digital classroom is more time-effective.

“There’s a myth that digital classrooms take teachers away from the students,” Carpenter said. “But this actually gives me more minutes in my classroom with the students. Handing out papers, correcting, those things all take time away from learning.”

Carpenter pointed out that she has easy access to work that students submit digitally, which cuts down significantly on teacher correcting time.

“No student can say they lost a paper,” she said.

One constant, Carpenter said, is that text is always read together in class. While e-books are primarily used, some students chose to use actual textbooks.

“We always read our textbook in class because it’s the one thing the students won’t do at home,” she said. “But they’re more apt to do the digital lesson at home.”

Using the Pearson SuccessNet Plus program, Carpenter has found that the students are more engaged during class as well.

“You seem to be enjoying this, and it seems to have challenged you,” Carpenter said to the board members. “When’s the last time someone handed you a packet of papers, and you felt that way?”

Board members also got to experience Hip Hop Geography, which is what the students get out of their chairs and take part in after they have been sitting for awhile.

“Every vocabulary word and (chapter) facts are in the song,” Carpenter said about the Caribbean South American song. “And the song fits the chapter we’re on.”

While she has learned on her own as time has gone on, Carpenter recommended staff development for anyone in the future, noting that teachers could certainly adapt as well.

“You can’t learn it all in one day of training,” she said. “It would probably take about a week to implement it.”

In addition to approving both action items, the board learned that Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert had extended the deadline for application for the elementary principal positions to March 1 in order to expand the candidate pool.

Along with several other school superintendents in the area, Willert visited the state Capitol recently. Of particular interest to the Marshall district, Willert said, was Senate File No. 2.

“File No. 1 is the health care exchange bill,” Willert said. “But File No. 2, which we’ll be watching, is about all day, every day kindergarten. I’m not sure how it will play out, but it could provide us with additional resources, I envision, as it rolls out.”