Dunham sees dramatic results from school-wide technology program


POSTED: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 9:45pm

UPDATED: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 1:54pm

Most school leaders believe the future of education lies in the implementation of technology. For one Baton Rouge school, the future is here, and it is award-winning.

The Dunham School recently won an award from Apple for the way it uses computers in class. Dunham made a big commitment to technology in the last few years.

"Since I have been here," said Nikole Blanchard, who became Director of Technology four years ago, "we went probably from maybe one computer in a class if we were lucky to everyone having computers. We have 1,000-plus here on campus."

The youngest students learn on tablets, while students get individual laptops beginning in second grade. Those computers allow lesson plans to be much more flexible.

"It's put learning at the fingertips of the students," Blanchard said. "They can research and find answers to anything. Teachers can take advantage of teachable moments. No longer do they have to say, 'let's save that til tomorrow, since it's not in the textbook.' Okay, well, you're interested in it, let's research, let's find out.

"We have what we know the kids need to learn and it's taking it and motivating them as well as teaching them skills they're going to use when they move on from here."

Since they are able to research anything at any time, students are able to discover new things that interest them. But the computers are also affecting test scores. Dunham students took standardized tests online last year, and they saw a significant improvement.

"Our students seemed to enjoy it much better," Blanchard said. "The stress was down and our scores went up. So we will be doing it again this year, I'm sure."

Having computers allows students to work anywhere, including in the halls or outside on sunny days. They also help students work in teams better than before.

"I really do feel that this generation of students really do want to produce, and they want to share what they've done," Blanchard said.

Blanchard believes teachers have take to the new approach with as much or more enthusiasm as the students, because they see how they can reach children in different ways.

On a recent teacher evaluation, she said, "the student wrote that 'the teacher is always modeling what I should be doing and showing me on the projector, showing me with the projector and the screen and that's so helpful.'"

According to Blanchard, Dunham has seen the benefits of the computer program extend outside the classroom, as well.

"One of my favorite stories," she mentioned, "is for cheerleading tryouts. The students in middle school, the girls videod themselves doing the cheers, and then they all shared it together. So the sponsor said 'we were a team before even actually a team.'"

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