High-Tech Classroom: Voter approval of school bond last year reflects students' performance this year

Fourth-grade teacher Tess Heydorn uses a Red Cat microphone to teach her class on Thursday. The new technology helps students hear teachers more clearly through a speaker on the wall. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Fourth-grade teacher Tess Heydorn uses a Red Cat microphone to teach her class on Thursday. The new technology helps students hear teachers more clearly through a speaker on the wall. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Chromebooks, Netbooks, Redcats and Mimeos in the classroom.

At Cottonwood Elementary School, these devices have replaced the Casios, CDs, clip art and Encarta of their parents' schooldays.

Thanks to a voter-approved $15 million capital bond request last November, kids in Cottonwood elementary and middle schools are reaping the benefits of high-speed internet, individual test stations and instant access to educational resources worldwide.

Mingus Union High School students weren't so lucky. Mingus' spending override request failed to pass. Mingus is again turning to voters this November to approve a $5.99 million dollar bond request.

The effect of technology in elementary classrooms

"The best thing with technology in schools is that it opens the students' world, even in somewhat isolated rural communities," said Steven King, assistant superintendent of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.

This year, all schools in his district have high-speed internet, individual test stations and instant access to educational resources worldwide.

The effect of technology on teaching has been amazing," said Jason Douvikas, principal of Cottonwood Elementary School.

"There is a huge difference from grades three to five. Now we can do Dibbles (online resources for teaching relationship skills)," Douvikas said. "We can do diagnostic reading assessments for the whole school so we aren't missing any of the student's needs."

Chromebooks

Chromebooks are a portable laptop computer that are networked together for ease of access to shared resources.

"We have mobile Chromebook carts with charging stations that are shared between teachers. They can accommodate a whole class," said Douvikas.

Netbooks

As a low-cost, low-weight notebook-style computer, Netbooks offer a compact size suitable for students of elementary school age.

"They are designed for students to take quizzes on ACE reading tests," Douvikas said.

Also available is an online language class called Mango.

"It offers six different languages -- English, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Russian and French," said Douvikas.

Redcats

According to the manufacturer, Redcat audio systems use "exciter" technology to enhance voice intelligibility and distribute sound evenly throughout a classroom.

"Red cats are a speaker setup specifically designed for teachers," said Douvikas. "They are like a microphone. It amplifies and clarifies voices anywhere in the room."

Mimeos

Like the blackboard of old, Mimeos are used to display a lesson class-wide.

"Teachers can project lessons onto a whiteboard," Douvikas said.

Computer lab

New this year at Cottonwood Elementary School is a dedicated computer lab filled with desktop computers.

According to Kathy Epperson, technology director, the computers were purchased from Yavapai County for $1 each when the county upgraded their equipment.

The networked desktop computers enable a roomful of students to access the same computer program at once. This is particularly useful during group testing and online lessons.

Equal access to resources

In an area as diverse as Cottonwood, school officials agree that technology helps to create a more level playing field in public education, as well as to expand a student's knowledge of the opportunities in life.

"It comes-up to an equity thing. It gives every kid an option to explore what's out there," King said.

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