Technology brings new tools to classroom

Technology is everywhere, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities, our homes.

These days it is also in our schools, a part of everyday learning in the classroom.

We are getting mobile devices in the children TMs hands, said McAllen Superintendent Dr. James J. Ponce. Bringing it all together along with students and teachers to transform the way we talk about teaching and learning, and making sure that we are at that cutting edge with technology and with learning.

Dr. James Ponce says his district is doing something many across the nation have not done.

The district secured mobile devices, for all 25,000 of its students.

They're using iPads and tools like facetime to revolutionize the student teacher learning experience.

Children as young as 5"years-old are thriving and loving the idea.

Student: "I have an iPad."

Reporter: What are you playing with?

Student: "The letters."

By January 2012, more than 5000 iPad2's and more than 400 iPod Touch devices will be in the hands of both teachers and students. It's an initiative; Dr. Ponce says, is already increasing student academic achievement and closing the gap for at-risk children. He says the move into the digital world will not only make the students more competitive but also increase the value of the community of McAllen.

Harlingen South High School Geometry and Digital Electronics teacher Brenda Amintrani uses social media to help her students excel inside and outside of the classroom.

We cannot predict how the future is going to look, said Amitrani. So we have to give them a foundation about how to engage in a social media setting.

How does she incorporate it?

Amitrani has created a Facebook and Twitter page to communicate important classroom information, tutor and encourage parent involvement.

She also uses a smart pen that allows students to take the lecture home with them.

I also use a pen called livescribe that records my lecture voice while it records what I'm writing, said Amitrani. It gives them extra tutoring time.

She says while some people may not agree with these new teaching methods, students are embracing it.

Students told Action 4 News technology engages their minds and makes them want to successful.

"It TMs a lot more interesting because it's more electronic, said HCISD student Colton Smith. Where other classes are just paper and students get bored with that.

Those who come from a bi-lingual household especially find social media teaching helpful.

"My parents say this is good because if I really need help with the problems, said HCISD student Brenda Perez. They can't help me. My parents speak Spanish. I can tweet her (Amitrani) and ask her what the math problems are. It's very helpful.

Skeptics fear introducing these tools into classrooms will distract students and teachers, and lead to off-topic, inappropriate or even bullying remarks.

But both Dr. Ponce and Mrs. Amitrani say precautionary measures are taken to make sure that does not happen.

Being a responsible digital citizen, said Dr. Ponce. There's a lot that we have to do with policy and practice and implementation. It's not just about placing the device in someone's hand.

There's a lot of negative feedback from teachers on media, said Amitrani. So we want a way to show that it's just not a negative tool but it is a positive tool we can use, but you have to follow the guidelines.

School administrators suggest setting up professional Twitter and Facebook pages.

That way, all personal information is kept private, but students and parents still are still involved

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