Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Integrating technology
Digital Learning Day open house Feb. 1

by Steve Targo

January 26, 2012

Brookwood seventh-grade teacher Karyn Kretschmer working with Casey Prather on a school laptop.
Brookwood Middle School seventh-grader Jordyn Keller on one of the school's iPads.
GENOA CITY — At Brookwood schools, children are making podcasts and infomercials.

Their teachers are designing iPad apps so their students can learn things they might not find in textbooks, such as lessons about the history of Genoa City.

Technology is more a part of education now than ever before. Smart boards, laptops and iPads have replaced the dry erase board and are close to replacing the notebook. The world of tomorrow is now the world of today.

People can witness it all firsthand as a districtwide open house Wednesday, Feb. 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Brookwood Middle School, 1020 Hunter's Ridge Road.

The spotlight's on technology.

"It really is a great opportunity for the broader community, for people who maybe haven't had kids at Brookwood in a while, to see what kids are doing now," Brookwood Middle School Principal Kellie Bohn said during a Jan. 18 interview.

Brookwood Elementary School Principal Jon Schleusner agreed.

"It's a chance to show parents how embedded technology is in what we do," he said. "It's an everyday thing for our kids and our parents really don't get a chance to see it."

Bohn and Schleusner said it's also part of a statewide initiative called "Digital Learning Day."

Schleusner said he, Bohn and District Administrator Bill Lehner were having a discussion in December. According to Schleusner, the general consensus was to work on something next year to showcase all the interesting, unique projects completed by Brookwood students.

Then, the e-mail went out from the office of Tony Evers, superintendent of the state's Department of Public Instruction, about the Digital Learning initiative. On Feb. 1, public schools are encouraged to focus on digital technology.

Bohn said she thinks the event will be well-attended. She said there is a high rate of attendance at school events, plus it's an opportunity "to see this aspect of the school."

"I think it's an easy sell for parents," she said.

As for the students and their teachers, they're busy preparing demonstrations for the Feb. 1 event.

"Generally, what (parents) are going to see is reflective of the kids' experience," Bohn said.

Elementary school

Technology is an all-ages affair. But at the primary level, engaging the students is just as critical as teaching them to be literate as well as develop their mathematic skills.

The smart boards, iPads and mp3 software are integral to the learning process. On a random walk through the elementary school Jan. 18, third-grade teacher Mary Beth Erickson was using a smart board to teach her students vocabulary words.

Schleusner said these technological tools hint at things to come.

"There are districts that are no longer providing workbooks to students," he said.

Schleusner also said digital technology is "updatable." Teachers are creating iPad apps to enhance their lesson plans. The trend in education is for more individualized, one-on-one learning.

But there's another reason.

"You're really putting better tools in the hands of these kids," he said.

What to expect Feb. 1 from the elementary school: A second-grade teacher's smart board presentation related to dinosaurs and third-graders demonstrating what they're creating in the school's podcast club.

Schleusner said the podcast club is relatively new.

"They meet two days a week for 30 minutes," he said. "One day is geared toward the technical aspects of creating a podcast, the second is working on content and editing. It's a neat experience for them to be exposed to some of that."

Middle school

While third-graders create podcasts, eighth-graders are making infomercials. That will be another demonstration Feb. 1

Middle school teachers, including Jacob Granahan, are making iPad apps.

Granahan, who teachers fourth-grade, said he is working on two because he couldn't find any that were available. One is to teach Genoa City history. The other is an app to teach fourth-graders about muscular and skeletal structures.

"These are apps I made from scratch to go directly with our curriculum," he said. "There are a half-million apps out there but you're not going to find one to go with Genoa City."

As for the skeletal part of his lesson plan, the only ones available on iTunes were suitable for college-level students, Granahan said.

Meanwhile, Bohn said students throughout the school are into more project-based learning.

As the emphasis moves away from worksheet-based learning, technology is not only important at school but in the real world.

To some, that's a challenge. But for younger people, having technology in school is more of a requirement.

"I think that kids and even some of my younger teachers just come into technology naturally," Bohn said. "It's a challenge for us in schools to meet that need."