Local schools going high-tech for learning - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Local schools going high-tech for learning

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As students prepare to kick off a new school year, a lot has changed in the classrooms since most of us attended. When we went back to school it was books, pencils and paper, but this generation of students is learning with a lot of help from new technology.

Channel 3 Eyewitness News checked out two schools that are doing some interesting things to get students interested in 21st century learning.

Our first stop was in Plainville, where every student in grades eight through 12 will be issued a Google Chromebook loaded with educational apps to stay organized and meet learning goals.

Administrators said the notebook will change how much students can accomplish right from their desks and at home.

"They'll be able to access their email accounts, access some networking capabilities between themselves, improve communication, collaboration in the classroom," Plainville Superintendent Jeff Kitching said.

And even when they don't have their Google Chromebook on hand, they'll still get everything they need.

"The Chromebook is nice because everything is internet and cloud based," Kitching said.

That means all the student's work will exist online, rather than on the device making what they need accessible - even when their personal Chromebook isn't on hand.

Administrators said the notebooks will help prepare students to work in the ever-changing modern world.

"The Chromebook is nothing if we don't change the way we teach," Kitching said. "So that's really where the big bang for our buck lies, is the way that we're going to look at instruction differently."

We also visited Meriden schools and found students at Meriden's John Barry Elementary School will be welcomed back to school with a new large computer lab modeled after a pilot lab at Casimir Pulaski Elementary School.

The 76-seat lab opened a year ago and was a hit with both teachers and students.

"We've had much success with the lab here this year and it gets a lot of use," said Barbara Haeffner, supervisor of Instructional Technology in Meriden Public Schools. "We've had much success with the lab here this year and it gets a lot of use."

Each computer is equipped with software that helps students reach academic goals and gives teachers reports to see how students are doing.

Students at Pulaski Elementary School are also able to use a new research center.

At the end of school last year, the room looked a lot different until administrators decided to make some changes.

"We said, 'How can we modernize this and make this more attractive and appealing to students?'" said Casimir Pulaski Elementary School Principal Dan Coffey.

The updated layout includes 30 new iPads loaded with an app called My-On.

It lets students read digital books that fit their reading ability level.

"This device can actually allow students to read it like a book," Meriden Superintendent Mark Benigni said. "It can read it to them and also offers questions at the end. So it's really moving the learning to a much different level.

This gives students a high-tech way to get specialized reading lessons. Meriden is also rolling out a "bring your own device" option for all students.

"We're going to encourage teachers to ask students to bring in their own devices into school and use them as learning tools," Benigni said.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops are all acceptable devices that students can use at school.

When the teacher says it's OK, students can use them to help in research and lessons.

Students without a device won't be left out either. They'll be able to work in groups to share devices.

"We want to personalize the learning for our students and we know that the technology and devices are helping us do that," Benigni said.

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