Digital Classroom

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Students of Sheila Stanley’s social studies classes at Opp Middle School have enjoyed a more interactive experience this year thanks to a donation from the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation, which provided those students with laptops. Now, thanks to an additional donation from the Dixon Foundation, a second classroom will receive an identical upgrade.

Stanley said the laptops have helped her teach in a new and exciting way that reaches students more effectively than simple pen and paper.

“There is so much information on the Internet and so many different areas to explore,” she said. “They can learn so much more by going to these different sites. They can go to places like and actually explore the White House. They can get a better feeling for all these things that they have heard about in class, but have not yet experienced.

“I am amazed how much these students know about technology,” she added. “Last year we were very honored to receive a grant from the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation. What we are trying to do is deal with social studies using a higher level of technology. We want to get the children more engaged in the subject matter.”

Stanley said the huge amount of data accessible through the Internet can be infinitely beneficial to students and teachers, but certain limitations must be placed on unwanted material.

“The Internet is filled with a large amount of information about a wide array of things and not all of it is suited for children,” she said. “A lot of material is blocked and cannot be accessed from these laptops in this classroom. If the material contains a keyword or fits into a certain criteria then it is locked and students cannot view it, but there is still a large amount of information available that can be accessed and can be used.

“All of the games and activities are blocked,” she added. “They cannot just come in and play games. They cannot just come in and listen to music. All of these things are blocked by default. If I want to utilize one of the quizzes or activities provided by the textbook company in class one day, then I have to request that it be unblocked the day before. If I don’t submit the request, then I will have to wait for the link to be unblocked before the class to access it.”

Stanley’s room has been equipped with wireless Internet connectivity, 30 laptops, a premium sound system for presentation, a document camera that allows the teacher to showcase pages from a textbook on large whiteboard at the front of the classroom, LCD projector and smart board and stylus that allows teacher to write/highlight/demonstrate on a virtual canvas projected on to the whiteboard.

According to Stanley the large number of laptops allow students to have their own computer during class and keeps students more focused on the day’s assignment.

“All of the students are working and a teacher must always monitor what they are doing,” she said. “The students know the rules and they know that they will be taken off the computer if they break the rules. They like the hands-on nature of the computers. It is just what their generation does. They are immediately immersed in this technology as children.”

OMS social studies teacher Shannon Clark, whose classroom will receive the second technology upgrade in November thanks to a $26,000 donation from the Dixon Foundation, said she is extremely excited to receive the equipment.

“I was completely shocked when I received the phone call to tell me my classroom would be receiving laptops,” she said. “We were overwhelmed when we received the first donation last year to upgrade Mrs. Stanley’s room and I never thought we would receive another donation the very next year to add even more laptops to our classrooms. We definitely appreciate the Dixon Foundation and everything they have done for all of the schools in Covington County.”