By Riley Manning
NEW ALBANY – A $110,000 grant from the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund has helped catapult New Albany Elementary School into the 21st century by providing classroom laptops for third through fifth grades.
“This really is a new way of going to school,” said Doug Formby, vice president of operations for Toyota Manufacturing. “These are the young men and women of the future. Technology is a big part of that future, too.”
Formby spoke to 4th grade teacher Tammy Kirkland’s class Thursday morning. He said the computers offered students an opportunity to learn in a more structured way. In the future, he hopes enough laptops will be available for students to take them home.
But for now, Kirkland said the devices have made a huge impact on her lessons.
When studying the life cycle, students brought leaves into class and use the leaves to research the trees they come from. Kirkland employs a single e-mail account accessible by the whole class, in which she drops links and powerpoints to help students. Using the video calling program Skype, students will be able to chat face-to-face with their pen pals.
“Most of them have computers at home, but even those who don’t come into class extremely computer literate,” she said.
Currently, the laptops never leave the classroom, but the district hopes to eventually assign one to each student. Next year, Kirkland said the district planned to expand the program to the middle school grades.
“As the curriculum transitions to online, the computers will really streamline the process of research and grading. For instance, if they write an essay, the computer program can point out – even remediate – grammatical mistakes so I can read for content,” she said. “It will make meeting the Common Core standards much easier, as well.”