‘We are moving ahead’

Editor’s note: These articles are the second of a three-part series on the implementation of technology in Hamilton County schools.

JEWELL – “It’s time to move ahead. We are moving ahead,” said South Hamilton Superintendent Tim Johnson as he considers what’s going on with technology at his school.

It’s been five years now since the school made the commitment for every student in grades 7 to 12 to have their own laptop. And this fall they’ve moved ahead to expand that to include students in grades 1-6, who all now also have their own laptops to use. The laptops for elementary students stay at school, while middle school and high school students are free to take their laptop home.

“It’s been shown that kids learn by technology better,” Johnson said. “Our staff has really risen to the challenge of moving ahead and has stepped up the game to integrate technology into the curriculum.”

One goal for the school is to teach students how to learn and how technology helps them, as Johnson sees it. “Our kids won’t be in the same world we grew up in,” the superintendent remarked. “So we need to teach them how to use the tools and how technology helps them.”

Another way South Hamilton is moving forward with technology is by adding a technology integrationist to the staff. Catherine Hines started in that new position at the beginning of the school year. She sees her position as the missing piece in technology education at the school. Lannie Schafroth, the district’s technology director, works with such matters as networking and computer updates.

“You would never have a business with this many staff with only one technology staff,” Hines says of the importance of a technology integrationist, “even though not many districts have one. The teachers support the position because they feel now that they have the support they need. And the administration gives me support.”

Hines’ main focus is on working with elementary students and teachers. “We teach kids about being safe online and that a computer is a lot more than a social tool,” she says. “They need to see this as a work tool, a career tool. What we need to continue to do is focus on how technology can make us smarter, not dumber. One of our roles is to teach them to be good consumers of information.”

Hines says that the elementary students are enthusiastic about their tech time and anxious to have her in their classrooms, where–depending on the age level-so far this year the students have looked at computer care, learned how to use Google Drive, how to create a Google Doc, how to create a poster using Google Drawing, how to use computer programs to review spelling words, and have worked on online communication skills during tech time.

Hines, who has a M.S. in instructional technology from UNI and formerly taught high school language arts in Boone, also works closely with teachers. “What’s nice for the district creating my position is that I can work one on one with faculty and show them what to do. The staff doesn’t feel alone; they feel supported.

“South Hamilton is becoming a leader in technology,” Hines observes. “It’s a slow process, but the infrastructure is built. I think South Hamilton has been laying the groundwork and is ready to go.”