District showcases 21st century classroom tech

Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010

The educational company Discovery Education displayed some classroom technology to kids, parents and teachers with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District at the Challenger Learning Center Friday night.

Photo By Tony Cella
Photo By Tony Cella
Gary and Sue Todd learn about a Discovery Education program with their daughter Holly last Friday night at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai.

Teachers and students can access more than 98,000 videos through the publisher's kindergarten through high school video streaming program and subject based programs meant for grade school and elementary students, said company sales manager Scott Pionek. During class sessions, educators can play videos on Smartboards or have children use them on computers on their own.

Students can access the programs from their home computers, too, according to company spokesman Scott Kinney. The company helps small groups of educators from specific schools of districts to work the technology into their lesson plans. Once they become comfortable with the technology, they teach the process to their co-workers.

Pionek said that teachers can upload videos, spreadsheets and digital lessons to its media sharing program. Assessments are built into the programs, and can be printed out as needed.

District Superintendent Steve Atwater said that every school in the system will be able to use the company's programming. Atwater believes that teachers will spend less time searching for media to show the class room. The programs separates the videos into two or three minute segments so the added material doesn't dominate class time.

"You don't need to turn off the lights and sit back for a half hour," according to the superintendent.

Assistant Superintendent Sean Dusek said that the approximately $100,000 a year subscription service replaces consumable materials like worksheets that the borough currently purchases.

Dusek said that more than half of the district's teachers will learn how to use the technology within the next two to three years.

Atwater said that this kind of technology will slowly push books out of class rooms.

Several students from the River City School in Sterling explained different programs at the event.

Daniel Shuler, an 8th grader, showed parents and students a Discovery program focused on astronomy. Fact boxes and activities appeared when students clicked on planetary bodies pictured on-screen.

River City School Principle Dawn Edwards-Smith has used the Discovery products a handful of times since school started the third week of August. The principle and teacher works the videos into her lectures, she said, and has students work them into their independent studies.

Gary and Sue Todd said that they liked the videos because their daughter, Holly, could watch them at home. The parents thought that the product will help their fourth grade daughter as her homework load increases.

A 7th grade student, Sierra Reynolds, said that the programs let her look at pictures of specific topics and helped with the memorization process. Overall, Reynolds found the product helpful.

"It made Pluto not a planet anymore," she said with a smile.

Tony Cella can be reached at tony.cella@peninsulaclarion.com.

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