Digital Learning Continues to Improve in Clarke County Elementary Schools

A fifth grade student at Whitehead Road Elementary reached out during a “Figurative Language Game” and touched the SMART Board.

With a point of a finger, the student showed the class that the phrase “happy as a clam” was a simile. He walked past the classroom netbooks and returned to his seat with a smile.

 Elementary school students like the fifth grader in Clarke County are surrounded with advanced technology like SMART Boards and Netbooks on a regular basis. Because of the support of the community and tax funding, students are able to prepare for a more technology-driven society.

Founded in 1997, the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax was renewed in 2001, 2006, and 2011. Clarke County is currently in Education SPLOST 4.

A Citizen.com article reported that the E-SPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Tax) expires in April 2014 and has a $115 million collection ceiling.

The revenue generated funds the upkeep of schools in Georgia, as well as improved digital learning environments. The SPLOST 4 renovation projects have helped Whitehead Road Elementary School, Borrow Elementary School, Barnett Shoals Elementary School and Clarke County High School.

 Stroud and Whit Davis elementary schools have been revamped as a result of the previous SPLOST funds.

Over the past ten years, a lot has changed, according to Emily Hodge of the Educational Technology Center at the University of Georgia.

“Just off the top of my head, I would say, in no particular order, harnessing the power of the Internet and digital resources, Google and all of its glory, interactive whiteboards, student voting devices, online learning, learning management systems, tablets, Apps, SMART Phones, ‘bring your own technology’ or byot, social media, and cloud productivity and storage,” Hodge said.

 Software like longitudinal data system has helped the school district gauge each student’s strengths and weaknesses in certain subjects based of technological usages.

Online Athens reported an accrediting team gave Athens Clarke County “glowing reviews” after a four-day inspection.

The inspection showed how the team was impressed with the use of technology and partnership with the University of Georgia’s College of Education.

Hodge believes that the local schools are just as, if not more so technologically advanced as the University.

            “It helps teachers individualize learning to students’ interests and abilities.” Hodge said. “We are also helping students be more thoughtful and responsible consumers of information.”

Whitehead Road Elementary, along with the other elementary schools around Athens, has SMART Boards in all classrooms, LCD projectors, computer labs, mobile laptop labs, wireless internet access and other technological advances.

Media Specialist at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary, Deirdre Sugiuchi, uses sources such as Google Docs, Glogster, PebbleGo, and Pathfinders to help students learn to search information.

“We are finding that because of technology, learning extends far beyond classroom walls,” Anisa Jimenez the Director of Public Relations and Communications of Clarke County School District said. “Students are giving feedback to each other in the evenings, and are able to communicate with their teachers as well.”           

What is next for our technology-driven society-first graders using Twitter?

At Barrow Elementary, the Media Specialist Andy Plemmons used Twitter to communicate first graders’ thoughts on the books hello! hello!  by Matthew Cordell and On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole.

“I thought Twitter would be great for this because it would require the students to write 1 short sentence that used capital letters, punctuation, and persuasion,” Plemmons said.

According to Hodge, technology is no longer a nice add-on. It is more of a norm rather than an exception.

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