Smart phones, tablets and laptops are used by children of all ages for activities ranging from playing games to interacting with others over social media. Conway Public Schools have embraced children’s love of technology to foster new learning experiences.
Conway Public Schools have a “bring your own device” policy for children who want to use their personal phone, tablet or laptop to enrich their lessons.
Additionally, classrooms are stocked with technology options, and media centers are able to bring more devices to classrooms.
“The goal behind technology is not to use technology just for the sake of using it,” said Debbie Miller, director of instructional services. “The goal is to use it when it makes the work more efficient and when it expands the learning opportunities.”
Miller said each classroom in the high school got eight laptops when the new school was built. Last year, labs were updated and added to various schools. This year, math and language arts classrooms for grades five through nine also have eight laptops each.
“Our goal would be that we would have that in all classrooms in grades five through nine,” Miller said.
The junior high has two sets of Chromebooks on carts that can be brought to classrooms, and the high school has a Mac lab and iPad lab for students. The elementary schools also have sets of iPods and iPads.
Funds for these resources come from reallocating funds throughout the district. A partnership with Conway Corporation has also helped build the backbone for the technology throughout the district. The state provides a certain amount of bandwidth, which is used to traffic sensitive data, and the district has wireless access points in each building with layers of security to ensure safety and meet federal guidelines.
Conway Public Schools’ Director of Administrative Services K.K. Bradshaw said embracing technology has helped teachers and students get excited about the lesson material, and the technology is being used as a resource to enrich learning.
Advancement in software has also helped challenge students who are moving quickly through a lesson while making sure students who are struggling have ample chances to grasp the concepts.
“Originally, when educational software first came out, it was just click an answer,” Bradshaw said. “Now, software is so advanced that the software will gauge if a kid gets so many answers right and it will increase the difficulty. If they start missing, it backs off.”
Bradshaw also said the district is taking input from teachers and administrators about what tools could be useful in a classroom setting. One example is the website Pinterest, which has been blocked in the schools but will be unblocked for teachers after receiving input and evidence of its usefulness.
Miller said teachers are aware of possible distractions technology can bring but are knowledgeable about how to recognize a student who is using a device to learn and one who is using a device for other purposes. Consequences follow distracted device use, and Miller said students have generally been good about using — and not abusing — their privileges.
“When you open yourself up to designing a learning environment where students have a safe place to practice — and that’s what it’s about in school — and embed technology, then you really are letting students practice so they can be competitive,” Miller said.