MADISON (WKOW) -- Technology in the classroom has gone through some pretty amazing changes over the years. From blackboards to floppy disks to zip drives, the possibilities seem endless.
In Mr. Richards' 6th grade social studies class, students are getting a hands-on lesson in mummies. They're using an iBOOK he made to interact with history instead of simply reading it.
It's just one of the many interactive lessons going on at Brodhead Middle School. It's a town of only 3,200 people with only three schools in the school district. The middle school teaches 220 students grades six through eight, with 25 iPads teachers can check out from the school's library.
It's a new technology that might not have been available to them if it weren't for a grant from Enhancing Education Through Technology. Over the past decade they've received between $60,000 and $100,000 each year to use on new technologies and teacher training on how to use those new technologies in the classroom. These federal grants are open to all public schools in the country, but it's very competitive.
"There's a focus in the district and we just make sure we have a plan and we get technology the way we can into the students hands. We want them to have that access," Brodhead Middle School Principal Lisa Semrow says.
Semrow also serves as the district's curriculum director. She has seen the impact technology can have in the classroom, but says it must fit with the lesson.
"That's where professional development is really important. The teachers need to understand and learn how to do it so they can teach the students how to use it or use a tool in their classroom," Semrow explains.
In Mr. Ruechert's 8th grade social studies class, students are turning a study session for their upcoming American government test into an interactive game.
By turning lessons into hands on activities, teachers have seen a change in many students.
"There's a sense of pride and the self confidence goes up and in the middle school level especially, to get them on board to say like, you have empowerment of your own learning and you've made it better yourself," veteran teacher Stephanie Tresemer says.
Tresemer has taught middle schoolers for more than 20 years. She has seen the power new technology can have on students with unique ways of learning.
"I think you have so many learning styles with our kids today that they're used to an extra stimulant and extra sensory that they're able to look at that, learn from it and that gives them more opportunities of how to share," Tresemer explains.
But Brodhead isn't the only school district that sees the benefits of new technology. At Sennett Middle School in Madison, Mr. Inda's language arts class is using iPads to break down writing samples.
"I have students that are very reluctant to do anything paper and pencil, but if I put the iPad in front of them they're ready to go right away," Inda says.
In the Madison Metropolitan School District there are more than 27,000 students spread out into 49 schools. At Sennett Middle School, 629 students in sixth through eighth grade have access to 131 iPads. They have another 20 to 30 iPads on order.
"We saw a rise in performance, a rise in student teacher relationships and just a willingness to perform academically," Sennett Middle School Principal Tremayne Clardy says.
Clardy sees new technologies as an equalizer, giving struggling students more ways to succeed. Many students who never showed an interest in school are now already asking questions about college.
"If you go on a college campus it's almost completely technology-based work and their instruction is based a lot on technology and the performance is based on technology," Clardy says. "So we really need to prepare our students for that now."
Both Sennett and Brodhead middle schools have the goal of eventually having one iPad for each student. While they differ in size, both school districts agree that the future of education is in these new technologies. They say it will ensure that students are focused and engaged in the 21st century.
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