Western Dubuque school district taking technology strides - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Western Dubuque school district taking technology strides

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FARLEY (KWWL) -

Western Dubuque Community School district is taking an innovative approach to technology in the classroom.

This is not a case of one-to-one computing, where a school gives each student a laptop or tablet to take home and use. Western Dubuque's approach involves enabling teachers to get creative with the technology they already have.

Interactive white boards, video conferencing and laptop computers aren't brand new to the classroom, but the approach Western Dubuque is taking is raising both attention and test scores.

In Ms. Wagner's seventh grade math class at Drexler Middle School in Farley, students worked Tuesday afternoon on algebra. It's not everybody's favorite subject, but technology made it come alive.

12-year-old Regann Pfeiler stood with a group of girls at an interactive white board at the front of the class, using a marker-like tool to drag shapes around the board while solving an algebra problem.

"You want to use this more than you want to write down on paper," she said.

That response is exactly what her teacher is going for.

"Once I started involving the technology and a little bit of the workshop model as kind of a background, I really saw the students be 100 percent more engaged and really take learning into their own hands," teacher Renee Wagner said.

The workshop model has students group up and help teach each other. That, plus technology, means results.

"Taking the learning into their own hands, their scores are so much higher than what they've been in the past, so I've been able to see a growth in a lot of my students, so the ownership is a big part there," Wagner said.

Western Dubuque School District's two technology experts are excited about the progress.

"We're geeks," Jim Roberts, the district's teaching and learning technology specialist, joked Tuesday afternoon.

"To the core!" Coby Culbertson added. He's the district's director of technology.

Together, they're on a mission to take what's happening in Ms. Wagner's class and others like it throughout the district and make it the norm.

"We're willing to take risks and we're willing to break the model of what people should be doing and, quite honestly, there's a lot of time investment that's going into this, so I think that's also where we're seeing a lot of success," Culbertson said.

"We haven't had to make a lot of purchases because we really try to utilize what we already have," Roberts said.

Culbertson said the district doesn't have plans in the foreseeable future to enact one-to-one computing.

"We're still providing the type of instruction and the learning that could happen with a one-to-one school but doing without the device, if you will," he said.

The district encourages teachers to collaborate and share innovative uses of existing technology.

Culbertson said Western Dubuque schools received technology-specific funds from a statewide settlement with Microsoft years ago. It used those dollars to purchase the interactive white boards throughout the district.

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