Reporting Esme Murphy
ROBBINSDALE (WCCO) — Even with Minnesota’s school districts as cash strapped as they are, most are investing in the use of technology.
On Tuesday, every fifth-grader at Lakeview Elementary in Robbinsdale received a small laptop they will use for the entire year. In the entire Robbinsdale school district, every third-grader is getting a Gmail account. Even elementary school students will be doing their homework using Google documents.
Critics of spending on school technology say there is no evidence that computer use in the classroom boosts tests scores, which is largely true because widespread computer use is relatively new. However, teachers at Lakeview say computers can make a difference.
Last year, Lakeview teacher Molly James had one fifth grade classroom that, through a grant, used netbooks. She says the difference in learning was noticeable.
“For the kids, there is just an engagement that is just not there with the normal pen and paper. They are just so used to the technology,” said James.
Students at Lakeview also get regularly scheduled classroom time on computers — even kindergartners.
Lakeview Principal Nichole Rens says part of the technology education here is learning to be a critical thinker and learning not everything online is right or true.
“If we can teach them how do you use the internet wisely, how do you research your answers and make sure the answers are reliable and the website is reliable,” said Rens.
At Macalaster College’s Center for School Change, Dr. Joe Nathan said computers and technology in the classroom can motivate and inspire even unenthusiastic students.
“It’s not a must, I think its valuable,” said Nathan. “If it’s done right, it can be enormously helpful. If it’s done right, youngsters develop not only stronger skills, but enthusiasm for the subject.”
However, Nathan said that there is one documented downside to technology in the classroom. He said some students become impatient because they believe the answers should be as easy and as quick to find as Google search.