By Linda Lane
As Vicksburg’s Sunset Lake Elementary progresses with its adoption of “The Leader in Me” program, more and more students there are taking on a wide variety of leadership roles. A team of fifth grade “Technology Leaders” from Sunset went to Lansing to present how they use technology in their classrooms and school. With the backdrop of a “green screen”, the students presented to legislators the various ways technology is used, including promoting events, taking tests and quizzes, learning about social studies and science and even doing newscasts.
The green screen allows people standing in front of it to insert a different backdrop when it is broadcast over the internet or on television. This technique is used daily in television news rooms, most often with meteorologists as they present weather forecasts in front of a map.
“Every kid has a voice, with a microphone,” Don Puckett explained. “And in all of our schools, technology is really helping teachers, even in the gym.” Puckett, technology director for Vicksburg Community Schools, presented the wide range and scope of technology and its use in the educational system at the Vicksburg School Board’s February meeting.
Puckett illustrated one use as board members and people in the audience logged onto “kahoot.it” to answer questions posed. Kahoot is a tool which is being used in classrooms to administer quizzes, tests or surveys. Much like playing a game, students answer questions with their tablet, computer – and in the case of the meeting, people’s smartphones. As in a classroom, participants answered questions at the same time, with results immediately visible. Superintendent Charlie Glaes ended up with the highest score.
As a tool to help guide teachers in developing students’ skills in technology, Puckett’s Technology Curriculum Integration committee created a document outlining where technical expectations are with each grade level so they are clearly spelled out. A list of over 100 skills and abilities are outlined by grade level. Ultimately the goal is for students to complete technology issues with no teacher or adult assistance. Teachers from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade can easily assess their students’ needs and growth expectations to master skills appropriate to their grade level. The document was so highly effective that a statewide group made some minor changes to it and adopted it as Michigan Technical Standards to use as a guideline for all statewide schools.
Vicksburg seems to be a leader in technology; a group of technology and curriculum specialists from Kalamazoo RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency) visited to learn how the district is transforming student learning with the integration of technology.
“This technology is just a tool – like a hammer. You’ve got to use the tool and swing it for it to work!” Puckett said.
District schools have also installed a new clock, bell and paging system which have helped overall communication within the schools, as well as lowering students’ tardiness in getting to classes. Safety and security across the district has also been increased with a number of additional security cameras, including a buzzing-in system in school offices for visitors to the schools. Each year the technology department upgrades and replaces computer “Chromebooks.” The use of Google Classroom plays a big role in all the district’s educational environments, enhanced from improvements in the district’s wireless networks.
“We need to thank our district voters for their support of the 2014 bond issue. The bond that voters passed allowed us to support important technology programs and other building improvements,” Superintendent Glaes said.
Continuous improvements at the Middle School were also reviewed by Principal Matt VanDussen, with a special focus again on results showing each Vicksburg Middle School grade ranking above state averages and ranking higher that other area schools. The staff is implementing a new intervention system for students to identify and address needs before they fall too far behind. Staff is also focusing on a new direction of “Positive Behavior Intervention” concentrating on unstructured areas like hallways, lunches and playground areas.