Teachers catching up as technology moves into classrooms

NEW KENT — When Kim Moyer started teaching 30 years ago, she didn't have a personal computer. The technology wasn't on her radar, and she didn't think the a day would come when she needed for her job.

But that day has arrived.

As the second week of school comes to a close, students at New Kent middle and high schools are receiving Dell Chromebook 11s to use in the classroom, to perform homework and to take tests.

"It's a challenge for sure," said Moyer said, while using a Chromebook create her first middle school science class lesson plan.

Moyer was among a dozen teachers attending a Sept. 2 technology workshop in the middle schools classrooms and cafeteria.

As technology becomes cheaper, easier to use and more accessible to educators, veterans teachers are learning how to use computers and tablets in the classroom that is, at times, already familiar to their students. The switch to digital classrooms can be a learning process for educators.

The Chromebooks come as the first phase of the "1:1" digital conversion in New Kent County Public Schools. The program coast about $300,000 to buy 1,8000 Chromebooks that will be used by students and faculty, Superintendent David Myers said.

The price tag also includes a school-specific server with apps to help the learning process as well as several workshops to train teachers on how to use the technology into their lesson planning and teaching methods, said Ross Miller, New Kent County Public Schools director of instructional technology, testing and accountability.

Working beside Moyer was fellow middle school science teacher Melissa Daniel, a 12-year instructor who said the amount of new resources available is a little overwhelming for veteran teachers.

"It's very stressful because you feel like you're starting over," Daniel said.

As she and Moyer finished their first lesson plans, they looked at each other, took a breath and clicked the "create" buttons together.

"But we're getting there," Daniel said.

Also working on lesson plans was Charles Dull, a 14-year instructor who teaches middle school history. He is excited about the quick pace Chromebooks will allow for exchanging information in the classroom, even if the lesson planning process will move more slowly at first.

"In the time it takes to make one lesson plan (on the Chromebook), I could have been done with a week because I've been doing it for so long," Dull said.

Another challenge teachers will face is keeping students on task in the classroom with the Internet within arms-reach at all times, said Lindsay Horne, a 10-year instructor who teaches social studies at the middle school.

She plans to instruct students keep their Chromebooks closed and under their desks unless the devices are needed for the day's lesson.

"I know sometimes they will sneak onto unrelated websites," Horne said. "But there won't ever have a free Internet surf day in my class."

Although the technology means changing long-held practices, the real value of the Chromebooks is the hope that they will stimulate critical thinking in students and teachers, said Kevin Ganey, a four-year substitute for New Kent County Public Schools.

"Students can ask and answer their own questions," Ganey said. "It's an amazingly valuable tool to convey classroom knowledge."

Third year teacher Renea Johnson said her middle school Spanish students used to be limited to one day a year in the computer lab. Now students will have daily access to the Internet, and she looks forward to exploring Spanish culture with them while they learn the language.

"It's exciting," she said. "It's helping me find tools I didn't know about."

Mayfield can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828.

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