New to state education: Georgia HB 338

Georgia House Bill 338…recently renamed as the “First Priority Act” brings some provisions that have already been seen by Georgia voters…except this time….its the legislators who make the final say.

I reached out to educational expert, Dr. Stephen Stewart, who was unable to comment.

Photo Essay: Why students love Apple

Mac vs. PC.

It’s been the debate that has raged among college students for years.In a technology-savvy world, what leads a person to make the big decision of purchasing a certain laptop?

There are many factors that one has to consider before making such a large commitment. Many students want the laptops they purchase to last them throughout their college tenure–whether that be four years or eight years.

The biggest factor is cost.

Apple products are known for their high cost, but long life span. On the other hand, PC’s can be purchased for much less, but is their quality what you pay for them?

UGA students are like a majority of college students across the nation–seas of Mac’s like Moses parting the Red Sea.

Apple products, like this MacBook Air, can be seen all over UGA's campus. Apple products are known for their light weight, making it easy for students to put them in their backpacks and trek across campus.
Apple products, like this MacBook Air, can be seen all over UGA’s campus. Apple products are known for their light weight, making it easy for students to put them in their backpacks and trek across campus. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Juliana Lima, 20, a political science and world languages education double major, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, uses her MacBook Air for everything. Lima said her MacBook was the best investment she and her parents made and never has to worry about it crashing.
Juliana Lima, 20, a political science and world languages education double major, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, uses her MacBook Air for everything, on Monday, February 13, 2017. Lima said her MacBook was the best investment she and her parents made and never has to worry about it crashing. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Jessie Gerke, 21, a human development and family sciences major, from Acworth, Georgia, uses her MacBook Pro so much that she is actually in the market for a new one. Gerke owned her MacBook Pro for over five years.
Jessie Gerke, 21, a human development and family sciences major, from Acworth, Georgia, uses her MacBook Pro so much that she is actually in the market for a new one, on Monday, February 13, 2017. Gerke owned her first MacBook Pro for over five years. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Nil Patel, 20, a finance major, from Cordele, Georgia, has owned a MacBook Pro for almost four years. Patel said he doesn't have to worry about viruses on his MacBook Pro.
Nil Patel, 20, a finance major, from Cordele, Georgia, has owned a MacBook Pro for almost four years, on Monday, February 13, 2017. Patel said he doesn’t have to worry about viruses on his MacBook Pro. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Brianna Miller, 19, a management information systems major, from Powder Springs, Georgia, considers herself faithful to the Apple brand. Miller said one of the biggest reasons she loves the brand is because her MacBook Pro can be used for more than just a computer. Miller loves that her MacBook connects to her iPhone via her iCloud account.
Brianna Miller, 19, a management information systems major, from Powder Springs, Georgia, considers herself faithful to the Apple brand, on Monday, February 13, 2017. Miller said one of the biggest reasons she loves the brand is because her MacBook Pro can be used for more than just a computer. Miller loves that her MacBook connects to her iPhone via her iCloud account. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)
Katie Pilson, 20, a public relations major, from Washington, Georgia, is a fairly new Apple owner. She owned a PC during her first two years of college. Once she got into her computer coding and production classes, she made the switch to a MacBook Pro because it allowed her to work on more "hardcore" projects without feeling like her PC would crash.
Katie Pilson, 20, a public relations major, from Washington, Georgia, is a fairly new Apple owner. She owned a PC during her first two years of college. Once she got into her computer coding and production classes, she made the switch to a MacBook Pro because it allowed her to work on more “hardcore” projects without feeling like her PC would crash. (Photo/Chelsey Shirley)

Longform: Technology in the eyes of student teachers

It’s true, technology is all around.

In today’s world, people have supercomputers in the palms of their hands. It isn’t hard to pay a bill on a mobile application, post latest whereabouts to the social media outlet of choice or even stay up-to-date with the most recent news in such a charged social climate.

One of the most recent trends is seeing technology creep past the cinderblock walls of classrooms across America.

Integrating technology in classroom instruction is more than just teaching basic computer skills—it is an effective way to further enhance the learning process across the board. Whereas 15 years ago, students were still assigned textbooks and wrote notes by hand, today’s students read textbooks online and take digital notes on school-lended technologies.

The Athens-Clarke County school system has implemented instructional technology goals system-wide, with the emphasis of moving all of their schools closer to a 1:1 ratio–that is, 1 piece of technology per every enrolled student.

Clarke County schools refer to their technology plan as “Learning Technologies,” which is described as the “application of technology for the enhancement of teaching, learning, and assessment.” Learning technologies look different among every grade level.

For example, among the middle school grades, technologies used in Clarke County schools vary from Google Classroom to Socrative to even learning to code.

Teachers already inside the classrooms aren’t the only ones who are having to adapt to learning new educational technologies. Thousands of college students enter the cinderblock walls of classrooms across the nation every day to gain field experience through student teaching. Not only are student teachers having to learn how to manage a classroom in one semester, they are also having to learn how to adapt–quickly–to the increasing trends of implementing technologies into lesson planning and curriculums.

The University of Georgia is home to one of the leading colleges of education in the United States. In fact, several student-teach in the Athens-Clarke County School System.  

Logan Fetters, 21, a secondary English language arts and math primary education major, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School in Athens, Georgia. Although Fetters thinks having technology inside the classroom is beneficial, in her experience, she’s also discovered a lot of negatives that can hinder her students’ learning.

At Clarke Middle School, students are loaned laptops at the beginning of each school year and must return them at the end of the same school year. Students are tasked with charging laptops at home every night and bringing them back to school the next day so that they can adequately perform tasks assigned every day.

Logan Fetters, 21, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School. Every school year, students are loaned a laptop to finish class assignments and complete various tasks, including homework.
Logan Fetters, 21, from Canton, Georgia, currently student teaches at Clarke Middle School. Every school year, students are loaned a laptop to finish class assignments and complete various tasks, including homework.

“[There will be] at least one student in every class who either doesn’t have a computer or doesn’t have a charger for their dead computer,” Fetters said. “So, if they don’t have a computer or charger, they cannot participate in the activity.”

Even though Fetters doesn’t use technology with her students every day of the school week, she still has had a learning curve adjusting to what technologies are available to use. Fetters wasn’t trained on anything in her college classes, so she’s had to rely on her mentor teacher to show her how to best utilize educational technology.

“I know I’m supposed to be from the technology generation, but I struggle sometimes with using the computer for education purposes for my students,” Fetters said. “My mentor teacher is also older, so she didn’t grow up with technology and doesn’t have positive emotions towards using technology.”   

Fortunately for Fetters, technology is not implemented into every day’s lesson plans. She says they use computers inside the classroom about once a week. As a future teacher, she appreciates the exposure she has received on how to use technology, but in reality, has realized that it can be hard to manage a classroom full of students at the same time.

“It’s hard to make sure every student is on task,” Fetters said.

As a soon-to-be teacher, Fetters appreciates the exposure she has already gained with use of technology in the classroom, but would ultimately love to use games, like Desmos, to excite students about learning certain subjects, like math.

Emily Smith, 22, a middle grades education major, from Valdosta, Georgia, is one of those students. She is currently student teaching at Hilsman Middle School in Athens, Georgia, where she is emphasizing in social studies and English language arts. Hilsman Middle School is one of Clarke County school system’s 1:1 schools.

Just like Clarke Middle School, Hilsman Middle School students are issued a computer that they use for the duration of the school year.

Their technology of choice: Google Chromebooks.

Like Fetters, Smith had no formal educational technology training in any of her college education courses, so she has had to figure everything out as she goes along.

Smith has found that the daily use of Google Classroom has allowed a more mainstream approach for both herself and her students.

“Basically everything is done on computers,” Smith said. “Most students keep an online notebook assignments are posted and submitted in the Google Classroom, and videos on the drive are shown on the smart projector.”

As an English language arts emphasis, Smith has also found that utilizing Google Classroom and smart boards are extremely useful. For example, Smith feels that smart boards assist in underlining important things to note or working on grammar in an English class.

Smith finds many positives with implementing technology into her future classroom. However, one thing holds her back from time to time.

The one hindrance to everything being based on a computer is not handwriting anything–even notes.

“Students tend to retain less because they are not handwriting,” Smith said.

But, like Fetters, the biggest worry for Smith is the distraction that technology enables.

“The biggest hindrance is that it is so easy to become distracted,” Smith said. “Many students will play games on their computers instead of working and many get away with it because everything is done on the computer anyway.”

Overall, Smith is still passionate about implementing the technologies she has adequately learned while student teaching, especially the interactivity smart boards and projectors provide for English lessons.

Even with learning curves for future teachers, like Fetters and Smith, one thing is for sure: technology makes things easier for the students.

Recent trends in educational technology

Technology is everywhere. It is ubiquitous and has the capability of connecting us to others within a matter of seconds.

As we become more interconnected through the use of different technologies, the more technology is being integrated into classrooms and curriculums across the United States.

Integrating technology in classroom instruction is more than just teaching basic computer skills—it is an effective way to further enhance the learning process across the board.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, technology ushers in fundamental structural changes that can be integral to achieving significant improvements in productivity.

School systems across the country are implementing “Bring Your Own Technology” initiatives, allowing students to bring their individual technologies to work on in the classroom.

Blended Learning

According to the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, “In a blended learning environment, learning occurs online and in person, augmenting and supporting teacher practice. This approach often allows students to have some control over time, place, path, or pace of learning. Blended learning often benefits from a reconfiguration of the physical learning space to facilitate learning activities, providing a variety of technology-enabled learning zones optimized for collaboration, informal learning and individual-focused study.”

Schools are implementing blended learning into their curriculums differently.

In order for blended learning initiatives to prove a success, the curriculum used within the classroom has to be designed in such a way to allow technology to supplement what students are already learning. Blended learning is a success when there is a common goal that both the student and teacher work towards together.

Founded in September 2006, Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that allows students and teachers to supplement what has been taught within the classroom through practice exercises, instructional videos and personalized learning.

Khan Academy provides tutorials and supplemental material in most every subject for every grade level—math by grade, computer science, economics, science and engineering, as well as SAT, MCAT, and AP exam test prep. The best part about it is it’s free.

Google and the Classroom

Chromebooks

        Chromebooks are becoming widely used within the classroom for many reasons. First, they are a more cost-effective alternative compared to an iPad. Chromebooks cost about $200 compared to the iPad at around $400. Chromebooks are known for their durability and the integration of Google Apps for the Classroom.

Google Classroom

        Google Classroom is a free platform that integrates Google Apps for Education with widely-used Google Apps—including Google Docs, Gmail and Calendar. Google Classroom allows for less paper, easier turn-around, enhanced communication and organization and is free for those who use. Teachers can set up individual classrooms for each period of students they teach and within a matter of minutes, post homework assignments and reminders for their students.