Education Nation: Michigan's High-Tech Classrooms

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

HASLETT -- What Ms. Livingston clicks on this computer shows up on this big screen.

It's called a Smartboard.

"It's an interactive whiteboard that's connected to a computer," says Haslett technology director Jeff Cassin.

The district has about a hundred of them, spanning from high school on down to elementary, where the kids use them for their ABCs or even physical education.

"Really, what it does is it captures the students' attention," Cassin says, "because now the students aren't just sitting in the classroom being lectured to."

Aaron Dimet's a senior at Haslett High. "It puts learning in the students' hands with technology," he says.

And yes, while those smartboards are $2,700 a pop -- teachers here in Haslett and across the state say technology is fast-becoming the only way to reach their students, and to prepare them for the real world.

"It's very difficult to teach now without using technology," says Margy Barile, the library media specialist with Haslett.

The Ombudsman Program with the Waverly Schools District takes that message a bit further. Students here have left the classroom and moved to a completely online education, where they can earn their credits through computer programs.

For Danielle Ouellette, it is working. She found herself falling behind the pace during her freshman year in the traditional brick-and-mortar setting.

"But now I worked really hard, caught to all my credits plus some, so I'm sticking with it," she says.

That speaks to one of the key advantages of online learning: The students who were struggling in the classroom might now be able to get back on track -- good news in a state where a quarter of kids don't graduate from high school.

"Last year, over 80 percent of our students recouped credits, and these are students who have not maintained full credit throughout a school year," says Cory Sutherby, the director of the Ombudsman Program.

But both teachers and students caution -- an online education is not for everybody.

And even students who do take that path should supplement it with at least some time in the classroom.

"It's also critical that you have the socialization that school provides -- the ability to interact with one another," says William Mayes, president of the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

Because for all the computers and smartboards in our schools, there's still no substitute for a good teacher.


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