Stillwater News Press

January 18, 2013

Increased use of technology in the classroom accelerates learning

By Mark Rountree
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Students lugging backpacks loaded with heavy textbooks soon may be a thing of the past.

Technology is revolutionizing education as more and more teachers are making use of digital online applications.

“Schools are beginning to move away from textbooks and more to a digital format,” said Dustin Hicks, a practical nursing instructor at Meridian Technology Center.

Hicks said the practical nursing faculty at Meridian has created videos demonstrating basic nursing skills. Those videos have been downloaded to iPads that are distributed to each student.

Students can check out an iPad, take it to the lab and watch a step-by-step video of the skill as they are doing it.

“If they are in a clinical setting at the hospital working with patients and it’s been a while since they did a skill, they have the video they can bring up, refresh on it real quick and go do it on the patient,” Hicks said.

The portability of the iPads is a benefit, Hicks said. Students are required to watch numerous instructional videos as part of their coursework.

“They can go to the coffee shop and watch these videos,” Hicks said. “It expands the classroom.”

Nursing student Cassie McLain said she lives in a rural area and cannot get online without a satellite dish. But she does have 3G service on the iPad and can access instructional videos.

“It’s been a tremendous help for me because otherwise, I’d have to travel somewhere to get Internet access,” McLain said.

Practical nursing instructor Charlotte Prewitt said some students are visual learners. She said one app has a feature that allows students to see a body system in three dimensions.

“You can’t look in a textbook and see the back side of the heart if the picture is of the front,” Prewitt said. “But with this app, I can turn and rotate the image.”

Digital English

The English department at Stillwater High School used curriculum funds last year to purchase eight iPads for each English classroom. The iPads arrived just before Christmas break.

“Instead of grammar books, we wanted these (iPads),” said Ashley Moore, who teaches Advanced Placement English 3. “Why would we want one big, heavy grammar book when we can get that book and a bunch of other grammar books and grammar resources online. We just get so much more for our money, and it’s easier for students. ... Having iPads in my classroom makes using technology faster, it’s more efficient.”

Moore said her class is studying presidential speeches. Students recently used the iPads to go online to a website specifically about presidential speeches.

“We don’t need grammar books anymore,” said Moore. “They are thick and heavy, and where can you find (specific information) fast in those big books? They can go to a specific app to learn about parallel structure. It’s so much less intimidating than a huge, thick grammar book.”

The iPads have restrictions. Students are not able to access unauthorized sites like You Tube or Facebook.

Moore said on the rare occasion that students find themselves with down time, they can pick up an iPad and do prep work for the ACT.

“They are just so handy,” said Moore. “We don’t have to use the dictionary anymore. We don’t need a thesaurus. We have that right here (on the iPad). We have access to the Internet. We have access to great apps that cover literary analysis, all kinds of grammar apps.”

Moore said the video function on the iPads is deactivated, but can be turned on when students are giving classroom speeches.

“It’s a great reflective tool,” said Moore. “They can go back and watch the speeches they have given and see how they did and reflect on that.”

The digital age

People born before 1985 are regarded as digital immigrants. They were born and raised in an age of typewriters and dusty chalkboards and have immigrated to the digital world.

People born after 1985 are regarded as digital natives. They know of no other way of life than smartphones and interactive SMART Boards.

“This (technology) isn’t really anything hard to understand for me,” said first-year nursing student and digital native Rachel Corbin. “I have all this stuff on my phone.”

Nursing student Mandy Stallings, a digital immigrant, said she just learned to send a text message within the last year.

“At first I was trying to fight it,” said Stallings. “I was just going to take my drug book along with me, but that’s 1,800 pages, which is a lot to go through to find something. On my phone, I can get that (information) in five seconds. It makes me more effective in what I do and makes me more efficient and be able to work with more people and manage my time better.”

Hicks said the use of technology in the classroom is all about increased access to information.

“We don’t have the big library like you do on the OSU campus,” he said, “but we have everything we will ever need right here on this one little device. It’s about content delivery, how easy and how fast I can get the information that I need.

“And in health care, that’s very important. ... It’s all about speed and efficiency.”

Media relations coordinator Cara Adney said the vast majority of students at Meridian are in high school and grew up with technology.

“They don’t know what it’s like to even have a VCR,” she said.

“So if our classrooms are not embracing that technology and using it, then we are not engaging the students in a manner they are accustomed to.”