New Tools for Teaching

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 16, 2009


News Editor

(Part two in series)

EDGARD—In St. John’s two west bank schools, West St. John High and West St. John Elementary, students are watching the inauguration, taking field trips to New York and meeting with classes across the nation.

How is this possible? In the Edgard schools, administrators have implemented a technology initiative, giving their students an advantage in this increasingly technology-based world.

Overseeing it all is Shayla Guidry, technology master teacher at West St. John High.

Although she is based at the high school, Guidry divides her time between the two west bank schools. Her duties run the gamut from troubleshooting to monitoring teacher use of the technology and showing them how they might more effectively use it to teaching technology-based classes to the students.

Having an expert on hand definitely has its advantages. The individual feedback she can give to students and teachers is invaluable, especially when dealing with such a wide range of ages and skill levels.

Like the students at Fifth Ward Elementary in reserve, West St. John Elementary classes now have the advantage of interactive whiteboards. The results have been similar, as well.

“It’s very motivating. Students love to go up and interact with the Smartboards,” said Guidry.

Motivation seems the prime asset to incorporating technology into the classroom.

In the high school, computers have changed the face of the classrooms and the students’ attitude toward being there.

Online classes are now available to students, so that opens up different fields of learning to them that were never available before the advent of the computer age.

Also, classes took a virtual field trip to New York City in which they got to tour some of the metropolis’ famous landmarks from the comfort of their Edgard classrooms.

They also had a teleconference-style meeting with a New York classroom and got to hear views from what to many of them must seem like the other side of the world.

This particular activity seems to have resonated strongly with the students, as many of them commented they enjoyed being able to interact with people in far-off places.

The motivation factor even extends to such usually mundane tasks as taking practice tests. On the computer, by taking practice tests, students can unlock games, and they eagerly do so.

They also enjoy the immediate feedback that a computer can provide.

The technology in the high school extends beyond the structure of the classroom, as well. Cameras and laptops are available for individual use.

According to Guidry, when student get to write papers on a laptop, they feel professional, thus turning a humdrum activity in one with an element of excitement.

The bottom line, however, is whether this technology has made a difference in the students’ academic performance.

According to West St. John High Principal Erica Merrick, test scores have gone up by over 16 points.

“It’s very exciting to have technology in the schools,” Merrick said. enthusiastically.