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A new type of learning

Science classrooms first to get iPads, laptops for paperless assignments
by: Alana Kansaku-Sarmiento Tualatin High freshman Drew Fergusson and his classmates use Chromebook computers in conjunction with classic lab technology, like microscopes, during Advanced Biology.

Dan Rott's freshman biology classroom is getting a bit more high-tech these days.

'Let's switch to the iPads, now,' Rott tells his classroom of students Tuesday morning. 'It's easier to write your blog posts that way.'

Rott's class is using new laptops, and Apple iPads to help them with their science work.

Rott's class isn't alone. Ten other classrooms across the Tigard-Tualatin School District are testing out new technology for students thanks to a $20 million bond voters passed in May.

Rott posts directions online for students, who break up into groups to test out microscopes.

Student take notes on their laptops, which they post to their own personal blogs for Rott to grade.

'I think it's pretty cool,' Freshman Emma Venne said, as she posted her lab findings online. 'It's all paperless, instead of writing, we type everything and save it as a post.'

'Access every day'

The district's bond is bringing millions of dollars worth of new technology to the classrooms at a time when schools across the state are struggling to keep their heads above water.

'Other districts are having to make cuts to pay for technology improvements,' district spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon said. 'But we are able to bring in these new technologies without making any additional cuts.'

The improved technology has been in the works for years.

In 2008, the district's vision committee said that it needed to improve the way the schools used technology, and make computers more accessible to students.

'Kids (would) go to labs, and they might have access to a computer once a week,' Stark Haydon said. 'Now they have access every day.'

Rott and the other teachers piloting the new technology program are keeping track of how well the new technology is working, Stark Haydon said. At the end of the year, the district will evaluate what technologies have worked and purchase more.

Science classrooms were the first to benefit from the new technology but new equipment could be adapted for nearly any curriculum, Stark Haydon said.

Not just 'a cool attraction'

At Deer Creek Elementary School, the students are transfixed.

'When the laptops come out, you can hear a pin drop,' Stark Haydon said. 'The kids are so engaged in what they are doing.'

Teachers are excited about the new technology, too.

'It makes things so much easier and more organized,' Rott said. 'No more dealing with papers. I can comment on their blogs and give them their grades that way.'

But Rott, who has taught at Tualatin High School for two years, says that the new technology needs to contribute something to his lessons, otherwise he will go back to paper and pencil.

'Technology shouldn't just be a cool attraction,' he said, 'If you need to use technology in the classroom, it needs to be something that will add to the lesson, and so far these really have made a difference.'

Rott said it is only a matter of time before technology begins to replace methods students have used for decades.

'These kids grew up having cell phones,' Rott said. 'When I was in high school, not many people had anything like that. That access to instant information is a bit different …This generation is so plugged in and is so used to using technology. This is so natural to them.'

Rott's student Venne agreed, explaining that access to technology has long been a part of her studying habits, and said that the laptops and iPads streamline the process.

'For me personally, I like reading the physical book, but when I have a question about the book I always go online. With this, it's easier now, because it's what we are supposed to be doing and it just adds that extra layer of help to it.'