Two side-by-side photos in a history of West Point Elementary tell a story.
On the left, students from Mr. Albert Wright’s class in the late 1930s write with pencils at desks made of wood and wrought iron. Behind them are lessons written in chalk on a blackboard.
On the right is a 1995 photo of fourth-graders, each at a personal computer typing on keyboards. To their left is a dry erase board.
Such is the rise of technology in the Davis School District.
In fact, with the school district seeking to be on the cutting edge of technology in education, Carol Nef, the 1:1 coordinator for the district, has this advice for anyone preparing for a career in education: “Know technology, as much as you can. A lot of what’s in the news is education reform.”
And much of this education reform, Nef added, is being achieved through the use of technology.
She should know. In the fall of 2010, she coordinated an innovative new program at North Davis Junior High School and Wasatch Elementary. Nearly 450 students from the junior high and about 200 from the elementary school began the 1:1 program, where each student has his or her own laptop computer — a small netbook.
Those students worked directly with the teacher in a paperless environment through Internet programs, including a learning management program utilized by teachers. Each laptop could only be operated through the school district’s Internet filters.
Speaking of the protective filters, Nef said, “It’s an application that no matter where that netbook goes, it goes back through our district files. Filters are in place to block any inappropriate content.”
Through this program, students interact directly with their teachers, and all assignments are done through the system. There are no paper clips falling off papers and it’s very difficult to lose assignments or homework.
“The hope was to not only engage the students but also to enhance teacher skills. Even from our qualitative data, it’s very evident that was successful,” Nef said.
One example is math, Nef said. Before, teachers have told her, the students “didn’t want to do the math practice. But now, they’re doing hundreds of problems and having fun doing it.”
The 1:1 program has been so positive for both teachers and students, Nef continued, that it’s being fully implemented in third to sixth grades throughout the school district, and expanding throughout the junior high schools. One school, Lincoln Elementary, uses iPads.
Nef emphasized another plus to bringing the district into the digital world.
“We need to be educating students on … how to be appropriate on social networking sites and on the Internet. That’s another safety measure — we educate students to be appropriate and to be good digital citizens.”
The use of personal computers is only one way Davis School District is expanding its use of technology to further education. In the science classroom, textbooks are increasingly used online so content is current. In addition, online classes are helping students that need more versatile schedules.
In 100 years, Davis School District has come a long way from the early days of McGuffey’s readers and slates. Sometimes slates and pencils were scarce. Because of a shortage of books, some early Kaysville teachers taught multiplication tables and geography using songs. The district saw its first stereograph equipment, the forerunner to the view master, in 1919. And the first telephone was installed in 1920.
Stephanie Gibson Hill, a special education preschool teacher at Syracuse Elementary, is certainly grateful for the changes. In 22 years, she has gone from blackboards and cassette recorders, to iPads and digital music.
“When you put one of the books on the iPad, (the children) are glued,” she said.
One of her favorite innovations? A simple microphone she clips on her shirt.
“You can use the speakers to soften the tone (in the classroom) and still be heard over 18, 20 kids. Technology has helped.”
To see an example of an early Davis School District classroom, visit the Heritage Museum of Layton, 403 N. Wasatch Drive, Layton. The exhibit “My Favorite Teacher,” traces the beginnings of education in the county. For more information on the museum centennial display, go to http://www.laytoncity.org/public/museum/Exhibits/featured.aspx
Julie Dockstader Heaps is a community volunteer on the school district’s centennial committee and a freelance journalist living in Syracuse. Historical information courtesy of histories written by Les Foy and Ardis V. Reading. The district was formed on July 17, 1911. For more about the Centennial Celebration, go to www.davis.k12.ut.us/dsd/centennial