DODDS-Pacific schools testing communications technology options
TORII STATION, Okinawa — “Beam me up, Scotty” now is more than a “Star Trek” catchphrase.
Thanks to a Pacific Technology Project, in some Department of Defense Dependents Schools it also describes how students hand in their homework.
The experiment with communications technology in the classroom is testing five different models for using laptops, hand-held computers and personal digital assistants. Five classrooms in Japan, South Korea and Okinawa are taking part in the 18-month project, which began in February.
Steering committee member Elizabeth Ballard, a language arts teacher at Robert D. Edgren High School at Misawa Air Base, Japan, identified the models as:
One laptop for every three students.A laptop for every student.One Palm Pilot personal digital assistant for every three students.A Palm Pilot for every student.A Dana compact computer for every student.Last week, 30 educators from the region met with the eight-member steering committee to discuss students’ progress.
“I had a lot of requests for kids to be in my classroom,” said third-grade teacher Karen Gordon of Misawa’s Sollars Elementary School. “This is technology that kids want to use. The kids are ready for this, and they love it.”
Gordon said fourth-graders she taught last spring often gather near her door to ask if she wants them to help her new students use Danas.
The computers help students get organized, she said, predicting that by year’s end her pupils will be able to type properly.
Gordon said she helps the students organize by entering homework assignments into her Dana and beaming them to each student. Her pupils then can complete their homework on their machines and beam it back for grading.
Her class spends about 55 percent of the day on the Dana, Gordon said.
Kadena High School teacher Timothy Black at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, uses laptops to teach advanced music composition and theory.
He initially thought computers would best help advanced students but “we found that students without any music experience were in the class.” Black said his class has one laptop for every three students — and one student with slight autism is expressing himself as never before.
“Some of the gifts that haven’t blossomed yet have come out with the technology,” Black said. “He’s very animated and you can see his excitement when he hears and plays a new song.”
Yvonne Magatagan, a science teacher at Pusan American School in South Korea, said she’s using Palm Pilots to help students get organized and learn.
The high-tech gear has allowed the class to be more mobile, allowing for more in-depth note-taking while outdoor research is conducted, she said, calling the portable computers “a wonderful addition to the classroom. It takes ‘What did you do today?’ to a new meaning.”
The program also is piquing fellow educators’ interest. Magatagan said colleagues often ask her about Palm Pilots and how they work.
Other teachers interested in incorporating technology into their classrooms may get a shot soon. Ballard said the application process for the next phase of the technology project begins in January. The next program will only have one model, though — one laptop per student.
But one model “is not more effective than another,” she said. “It’s how the teacher applies it. … The program depends on the teacher’s vision.
“It’s only limited by the teacher’s creativity.”