Using Technology for More Than Just Games

by Trey Tracy, Director of Technology

I recently attended the annual Mississippi Educational Computing Association conference here in Jackson.  At this conference, technology teachers and directors, librarians, school administrators and more came together to share how they are using technology in their schools to further education. I always leave these conferences energized and encouraged. So I decided to share a little of what I learned in this week’s blog.

Most of us reading this article grew up in the 20th century and certainly did not learn like our 21st century children are having to do…with technology. I think the most technological tool I had at my disposal was a TI-80 graphing calculator until my junior year in high school when I got a computer that actually had sound and could connect to the internet with services such as Prodigy and AOL.

Children now have easy access to the internet, iPads, Kindles, laptops and other technology everywhere they turn.  So are we using this technology just for entertainment or are we using it as a tool for learning? Here are some items that everyone who has access to an iPad should use:

  • iTunes University – This is a free service that offers content from colleges, universities, K-12 schools and organizations such as the Smithsonian. Thousands of free documents are within easy access.
  • iBooks – I sat in a session regarding iBooks that instantly made me want to start putting books together.  iBooks are interactive books that not only contain text, but also contain photos, slideshows, videos, web resources and more.  A good many of the books available through iBooks are free. Have a Mac at home?  Then you can download the free iBooks Author software and make your own iBooks for your children.  Imagine putting a book together based on your family. Going on a trip, say, to D.C.? Why not put together a book about Washington, D.C., for your kids to study. The ideas are endless. However, the most important aspect about iBooks is that with their interactivity they really engage the student.
  • Internet – Yes, the internet can be a scary place but at the same time it can also be educational. Sit with your children and send them on a scavenger hunt on the internet. For example, see if they can find what the weather will be for Jackson this weekend. Find a topic of interest and have them find five facts related to the topic. This also becomes great family time as you sit with your child and help them navigate the internet and also a good time to help teach them about online safety. You just may learn something too as you help your child.
  • Apps – We all know “there is an app for that!” I’m encouraging our teachers to keep their students’ parents in the know as to what apps they are using in class so that you may purchase them at home if you have your own iPad. At the end of this article are apps that some of the grades have submitted that their students are enjoying. Yes, some of them may look like games to us, but they are educational games, so students are learning while also playing.

I’m a proponent for students learning some things the “old school” way as there will be times when technology fails us. However, there is nothing wrong with using technology as another tool in the arsenal to help educate young minds.

Please feel free to email me if you ever have a question about how students are using technology here at FPDS or advice on apps, etc.  We want to be a partner with you so your child gets the best education possible.

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Our students use many apps on the iPads. However, here are some of their favorites that are available through the App Store. Some are free, and some carry a small cost. Please be sure to evaluate the age /grade level for the app before purchasing.

  • Stack the States
  • GeoBoard
  • Brain School
  • Vocabulary/Spelling City
  • Taps Times Table
  • EDUCREATION
  • TODO Math
  • Grandma’s Garden
  • Grandpa’s Workshop
  • Science360
  • OG Cards
  • Sight Words
  • First Grade Learning Games
  • ABCYa
  • IXL
  • Geoboards