Chromebooks, Smartboards and ClassDojo. Long before the pandemic, technology was becoming a staple and enabling students, teachers and parents to engage in new and exciting ways beyond the classroom. Last year, technology kept students and educators connected with remote learning solutions. Now, as schools are back in session for in-person learning, we sit down with Adam Hooker, business manager of the Laurel County School District in Laurel County, Kentucky to talk about how technology in education has redefined learning.
Munoz: So when it comes to technology, first of all, what's new, what's old? And how is it different between all the grades? I remember, back when I was in grade school, when they brought in that cart on wheels with that TV on it, you knew, you got to watch a movie, something big was happening. That was like the biggest technology I think we had in the classroom back then. So now, what's old, what's outdated? and what's being used in the classroom?
Hooker: You know, and in schools all across the country, we've seen such a change over the last 10, 20, 30 years. Like you say a TV on a cart, one of the things that was implemented pretty early on in my career, was the smart board and the projector in the classroom and every classroom in Laurel County, and pretty much every district now, has a smart board and a projector. And they had a computer at the front and they led the classroom from that. And that was from grades preschool all the way up to seniors in high school, we're doing that. Now, it's becoming more of an individual device per student in the classroom a lot, especially at our high schools and middle schools, they do the class setting on maybe Google classroom or other platforms.
Munoz: So when this all hit, I mean, we've talked a lot about this pandemic and how we've survived it and even thrived at times, but when it hit, what did you find were the biggest deficiencies when it came to technology? And then how did you solve those, especially when you think about financially?
Hooker: Sure, the biggest thing that we were faced with is trying to move from an in-person class setting to a virtual class setting. And our district tried really hard to keep in-person as an option, as long as possible. And we tried to come back as quickly as we could, because I don't think there's any substitute for in-person learning, but the technology offered a way to, instead of being at home with no instruction, at least we were able to give them teaching at home through the multiple platforms that we had. But we were faced with a difficult situation, because we didn't have enough devices to send home with everybody. We had been moving toward the Google Chromebooks over the iPads over the last couple of years, as kind of a replacement to those. But we hadn't gotten a one-to-one really at that point, but we were fortunate enough to have some from specific programs. So we started giving those out to the students that didn't have a device. Our parents in this district were really good about if they had a device at home that would work on Google, they didn't get one just to get one. So our community really came together to provide this online learning environment that provided a way for our students to learn, even when they were not at school. There were a lot of challenges with that too, because speaking as a parent, you know, I'm not a teacher, by any means, I respect... My mother was, and my mother-in-law was, so guess who got to be their teachers during the online learning. We were very fortunate, but a lot of parents, a lot of families were not. And so it became difficult to put the time needed into that. But the technology made it possible, because they could speak to the teacher face-to-face just on video chat. They could get direct feedback almost instantly on assignments. And they had learning assistance for... I think the parents learned a lot over the last year and a half about education, because they had to get really involved. And it worked for a lot of people.
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