By Hayley Kappes
Killeen Daily Herald
A new generation of students is emerging whose daily activities are dictated by the Internet, viral videos and an endless array of social networking Web sites.
Keeping up with the trend, the Killeen Independent School District has made adjustments to the demand for technological teaching methods.
Shirley Boyd, KISD instructional technology consultant, said one of the most crucial areas of focus for the district is digital literacy.
"Our students belong to the thumb generation," Boyd said. "They grew up playing video games and texting. Providing an opportunity for the digital learner in the learning environment is one of the areas we want to address."
The district's goal is to bring novelty and choice to students in terms of their creative outlets for learning.
"The iPod is such a phenomenal tool," Boyd said. "Students can download podcasts focusing on a number of educational topics. Teachers can use it to upload their lectures and PowerPoint presentations."
Boyd said because students have the capability to create academic content through different means, the end result is that they are in charge of their own learning process.
"When students can actually see their work published, it provides them with self-confidence. It also provides an awareness of intellectual property," Boyd said.
Back-to-school shopping spares no exception for students of all levels in terms of electronics that will assist them in their educational endeavors.
Sharon Burford, manager of Circuit City in Harker Heights, said the highest-selling electronics offer the most convenient features, and the most popular items for back-to-school shoppers include computers, iPods and portable hard drives.
"A computer and printer are very important in terms of researching and printing out documents," Burford said. "We also have learning software that helps students with math tutorials of different grade levels."
Electronics that can perform multiple duties are popular among college students.
"The LCD TVs are popular because you can use them as a computer monitor as well so it doesn't take up a lot of space in the dorm," Burford said. "A lot of PlayStation 3s are being sold because they can play movies and games in the same console so it's very convenient."
KISD is accomplishing its digital drive by creating an environment filled with tools students have at their disposal.
Paul Selph, computer instructional technologist at Saegert Elementary, said his job focuses on integrating curriculum with technology.
The school has new Apple iMac desktop computers, digital point-and-shoot cameras and camcorders that afford students the ability to create interactive projects.
"There's a podcast server in the district so we can make podcasts and put them on the server. That way they can share them with people at home," Selph said. "It's accessible for everybody."
Selph hopes to have video servers set up so they can hold videoconferences with classrooms around the world.
The school also has Mac PowerBooks that can be transported from classroom to classroom to cater to different projects. Selph said eventually all students in the school will have a laptop.
He said students get excited about working on photo and video-oriented projects because they are not bored.
"Even though they're learning, they're having fun. It gets them involved and engages them, which is the key to our new learning system," Selph said. "Once they get disassociated with the learning process, and it becomes a chore for them, the material doesn't sink in as well."
Manor Middle School uses Moodle, a free course management software system that acts as a communication platform between students and teachers.
Teachers can post assignments, correspond with students via live chat and students can conduct online discussions from home.
Charlie Stewart, campus instructional technologist at Manor, said this is the second year the school has used Moodle, and the feedback has been positive.
"It gives teachers another advantageous tool to interact with students," Stewart said.
Stewart said the school monitored what students said in the chat forums, and the dialogue was all education-related.
"The students love it," he said. "They can ask each other about what went on in class that day and can discuss assignments. It makes communication so much easier for students."
Contact Hayley Kappes at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559.
Top technology for students
Apple MacBook: Software makes this a solid choice for students. Comes with a program, Garage Band, for producing podcasts. Built-in iSight webcam, stereo speakers and microphone. Price: $1,999.99.
Sony Handycam Camcorder: Small and easy to use. A good tool for shooting video for podcasts or projects. Price: $449.99.
Canon PowerShot digital camers (10 megapixel): Easy to use, so available for younger students. Higher megapixel count produces higher quality photos. A visual and interactive tool for projects. Price: $299.99.
Apple iPod nano (8GB): Can be used for music, but can download podcasts for school projects, lectures or educational projects. Also capable of recording information like lectures. Price: $199.99.
Iomega Prestige 500GB External USB 2.0 Hard Drive: A good backup if your computer crashes. The extra memory allows storage of more information. Also a good place to store information if the hard drive on your computer is getting overloaded. Price: $119.99.
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 4GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive: A great way to store information on the go. Good for students who need to take projects on to work at home on their personal computers. Price: $40.99.