Marcola School District Embraces Technology
Students are learning the skills necessary to be successful in a digital world.
It was quiet on a morning in the Middle School English classroom at Mohawk Middle/High School, where everyone was coming to class half awake. That was until teacher Renee Klein made the same announcement her students would hear throughout the school day — and have been hearing in most of their classes: “Open your chrome books, please!”
Suddenly, students opened their eyes and chromebooks and quickly connected to Ms. Klein’s Google Classroom to access directions and resources for the project-based activity that required students working together in small groups. There was a flurry of activity as the students quickly organized themselves in groups. Soon, they were poking away at answering and discussing questions about a book they were reading, when suddenly a student who was absent that day, signed in to become a virtual group participant from the comfort of his home. The student who was absent wasn’t really absent? He participated in all group discussions and assisted with answering all the questions. With a sea of glowing computer screens and students collaborating, I noticed a high level of active and positive engagement.
Over the last decade, school districts have raced to make technology a central part of students’ lives in and outside the classroom. Marcola School District has made technology replacement and renewal a priority to help teachers and students stay on top of the latest and greatest technology resources and skills to be successful in a rapidly changing workforce that depends on technology. Everything from classroom instruction to note taking has become something that can be done digitally; in many classes, textbooks and paper worksheets are largely a thing of the past.
Marcola School District educators say the shift is necessary; without the right tools and training, they say students will be left behind in an increasingly digital world. They note that the technology boom has created new ways for students to collaborate on projects, allowed teachers and parents to more closely monitor progress, and put powerful devices in the hands of young people who may otherwise have lacked access to them.
Marcola Superintendent, Bill Watkins, sees investment in technology and career technical education as a good thing. Using technology means teachers can check in at any time and see a student’s progress on a writing assignment, career tech project, math assignment, etc., and help sort out questions. This includes after hours, many teachers frequently respond to students’ questions when they are at home in the evenings and on weekends. Watkins says, “An investment in technology allows students and teachers to learn from anywhere at anytime – well beyond the time constraints of a traditional brick and mortar school. He says, students who get started early with frequent use of devices will be more prepared for the workforce and can dive deeply into subjects they find interesting.
Special Education Teachers at Marcola School District say digital learning devices can be particularly helpful for special education students who struggle with their speech or penmanship, or for those who find in-person communication a bit daunting but collaborate well with others online. It gives our students, with different disabilities, access to the wider world.
Marcola School District educators all agree that our school should not lose sight of the fundamentals that make kids successful whether they are on or offline: critical thinking, in-person communication, impulse control, etc. Educators in the Marcola School District, use the acronym PIES (Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social) to describe the necessary education for the “WHOLE” person. Marcola has also invested in the full implementation of a Social Emotional Learning program to assist students and families who have social/emotional needs. Most schools will provide additional resources to help students who have physical and intellectual needs. Unfortunately, most schools will provide negative consequences (external discipline) for students who have social/emotional needs. Marcola School District, under the leadership of several employees trained to provide support for students with social emotional issues, work with students to help them develop the internal discipline necessary to improve. Marcola School District is focused on Continuous Improvement and is constantly tracking student’s progress toward overcoming their social/emotional weaknesses. And . . . our Social/Emotional team uses technology every day to track student progress.
As Marcola School District (MSD) enrollment continues to grow, so do the Career Technology Education (CTE) programs. MSD now has five complete CTE programs of study: Agriculture, Construction, Engineering, Computer Science and Health Occupations. All five programs of study require students to learn the technical skills necessary to be successful in careers associated with the Programs of Study. MSD recently purchased a farm and is currently designing a new Career Education Technical Center (CTEC) to be built on the farm. The CTEC building will be home to some of the latest technologies used in the career fields associated with the five programs of study.