How technology is changing the way children learn - FOX 32 News Chicago

How technology is changing the way children learn

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Tots on laptops and tablets, they are masters at home and now they're swiping their way through school too.

At Chicago Public Schools Cesar Chavez Elementary, teachers faced a challenge that is seen all over - one classroom at various levels of learning.

"If a teacher's got a classroom, has kids at a math level of a first grader all the way to a sixth grader in one classroom of fourth grade students, it's really difficult or challenging to have a teacher meet all of their needs," said Barton Dassinger, principal of Chavez Elementary.

The non-profit "Chicago Public Education Fund" gave the school money for computers and software that could be tailor-made for each student.

Seventh-grader Damani Lozano is calculating his improvement in math.

"They've changed my learning on a whole different level," Lozano said. "I can stay up to speed with the eighth graders and what math they do."

Chicago's St. Ignatius College Prep has an enrollment of nearly 1,400 students and as of this September, every single student is required to have an iPad in school. The Catholic school helps families pay for them as needed.

The tablets, in some cases, have completely flipped lesson planning. One teacher records her lectures in advance. Students watch them first at home leaving more time for in-class problem-solving and discussion.

"Then she could find who's struggling and who understands this. How they could help one another," said Father Michael Caruso, St. Ignatius president.

Teachers were trained for one year on the technology first. Then, once the school was all-in, St. Ignatius did a survey.

Asked if the iPads enhanced the learning experience, 57 percent of students, 52 percent of faculty, and 58 percent of parents said they did. It’s a positive, if not overwhelming endorsement. St. Ignatius senior Corina Perez was one of them.

"I for one like them because I think they're more convenient," she said. "It's actually much better than using these 10-pound textbooks but I actually kinda miss just having a book that you can open. It's not the same.”

The criticism is there. Technology just for the sake of technology could short circuit the fundamentals of education.

Heather Anichini of the Chicago Public Education Fund agrees, we have to be sensitive to the potential pitfalls.

"It's really important to remember that an iPad doesn't replace a teacher,” said Anichini.

But she says education must keep up with society and we have to raise our overall standards of achievement.

"If we're gonna ask teachers and students to meet those increased expectations - we have to give them tools. I think it would be shortsighted not to acknowledge that technology is a tool that we use in every other place in our world today and it's one that belongs in our classrooms - when it's used with fidelity and with care,” she said.

Supporters say the numbers speak for themselves.

"When I first came here - we were a Level 2 school according to CPS performance policy. After we got the influx of computers and started integrating technology, we moved to a Level 1 school,” Dassinger said. “We've had an increasing number of students gain acceptance into the city’s most selective high schools."

And the school’s achievement just won it a privately funded $100,000 national grant for more technology.

"Our students would not be nearly as engaged as they are now. I think you're seeing students are much more engaged. Much more motivated and much more in charge of their own learning," Dassinger said.

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