New technology implemented to prepare students for future

Rachel Schowalter | Staff Writer

In an increasingly high-tech world, being adaptable to ever-changing technological advances has become essential. In order to equip its students with these skills, Mason High School has been implementing the latest technology in its classrooms.

According to MHS Instructional Technology Specialist Byron Walton, the Mason City School District strives to be on the cutting-edge of technology in education.

“We have been able to pride ourselves on being able to try to be on top of all the technological advances in education over the years,” Walton said. “Through continual research from our technology curriculum coordinator and our integration specialist, we will continue to examine new, fresh software applications that are applicable to our curriculum.”

In recent years, Walton said MHS has incorporated multiple new technologies into its classrooms, including the SMART Board AirLiner, Audacity, the Sanako Language Lab, SMART Response clickers and Flip Video digital camcorders. According to Walton, many of these new additions are initially challenging for teachers to learn. Despite the troubleshooting that arises from new equipment, Walton said the introduction of new technology into the classroom helps teachers focus more on how they teach than grading papers.

“Educational technology is really allowing the teacher to be able to teach,” Walton said. “It takes them away from having to spend so much time grading and doing paperwork so theycan focus more on education.”

Honors Pre-Calculus and Algebra I teacher Greg Roach said the SMART AirLiner, a device he uses in his classroom, is able to benefit both his teaching and his students’ learning. The AirLiner, more commonly known as the SMART Board, is a wireless slate that allows teachers to write notes that automatically appear on both the computer and projection screen.

“The one aspect of the AirLiner that helps the most in student learning is being able to save my notes for the day in .pdf form and export them into Edline,” Roach said. “[But], most of the real benefit comes actually from the software that goes with the Airliner, [which includes] ready-made graphs and interactive function transformations.”

Freshman Arjun Venkatesh said that he appreciates the swift features of the AirLiner and its note-taking capabilities. In addition, Venkatesh said the AirLiner is helping students adapt to ever-changing technology.

“If we’re stuck with the old technology, the next generation won’t learn anything new either,” Venkatesh said. “We have to go with the flow of what’s happening because it will just keep getting better and better.”

Roach said he is using the latest technology in his classroom not only to remain up-to-date on technological advances, but because he believes that it teaches students how to communicate well with others.

“You can be really smart, but if you can’t say it, write it, express it or show it somehow, it doesn’t mean much,” Roach said. “This constant stream of tech into the classroom hopefully exposes kids to different ways to communicate.”

AP Multicultural Literature teacher Meg McKinnon said the use of new technology in education is essential to improving this communication amongst students, which, in the 21st century,McKinnon said is often in electronic rather than hardcopy format.

McKinnon has been utilizing Wikispace, an online forum for classroom discussion, in her teaching for the past two years. According to McKinnon, Wikispace takes away the time pressures of an in-class discussion by allowing students to respond to each other’s opinions via an online thread.

Senior Angela Ianniello, who is currently taking AP Multicultural Literature, said she thinks Wikispace is beneficial to MHS students because it promotes accessibility to a wired generation.

“[Wikispace is] comfortable for most of us to use, because technology is how we like to express our thoughts,” Ianniello said. “It’s definitely something that might interest us more than writing our thoughts down on paper in a traditional form.”

Although Ianniello said she would prefer to speak to her classmates in a face-to-face discussion, she recognizes that the inclusion of new technology like Wikispace in MHS classrooms will help prepare students for their futures.

McKinnon said that in order to teach students the necessary skills for working in a technological world, teachers must learn how to use new technology.

“It’s hard to let go of [traditional teaching practices],” McKinnon said. “But, if we’re preparing them for a workforce that is technologically savvy, it’s our responsibility to train them how to use those different skills.”

AP Physics teacher Diana Messer said she also believes that learning how to use new equipment in her classroom will help students become more flexible with technology in the future.

“Everything is changing, so [we] have to be adaptable,” Messer said. “Learning to incorporate [new technology] into my classroom is helping that.”

Messer said that the labs her students perform often use updated equipment such as probes, motion detectors and magnetic field and light sensors. According to Messer, the technology allows students to become more familiar with new gadgets so they will be well-versed in lab equipment by the time they reach their senior year.

Walton said that he hopes the technological education Mason students receive will not only help them throughout high school, but also in their higher education and careers.

“[Technology] is not going away anytime soon,” Walton said. “We want to equip you with the knowledge so it does not become a distraction to your education.”