NEW CASTLE - Fifth and sixth grade students at Riverside Middle School in New Castle are taking a different look at their education. Their teachers are integrating mobile technology, such as iPads and iPod Touches, into the classroom as another tool to enhance their learning experience.
The school is one of 12 underserved schools around the country - and the only one in Colorado - to receive a grant of $33,000 from the Verizon Foundation. They were selected to be a part of the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program, which helps educators more effectively and innovatively use technology to enhance student learning in science, technology, engineering and math. Fifth and sixth grade Riverside math and science instructors are participating in the program.
Along with the Verizon grant, the effort was helped by a $284,000 Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grant to the Garfield School District Re-2 to upgrade its wireless network districtwide.
"As Garfield Re-2 teachers integrate more and more wireless devices, the network was getting very slow," said district Technology Director Roger Gose. "The upgrade to the wireless network is a critical component to the use of wireless devices in the classroom. The two grants came at the perfect time to work together."
The Verizon program grant provides funding for professional development for teachers, along with some equipment and software. Riverside teachers participated in a three-day face-to-face training workshop over the summer to learn how to apply technology to support digital-age learning and to gain insights into the applications and tools they can use to get their students interested and engaged to help them achieve in school.
Teachers receive continuing professional development through webinars and instructional technology coach Holly Miller. She is devoting extra time to supporting participating teachers at Riverside as part of the grant.
The federal mineral lease district grant helped upgrade the wireless network at nearly every Re-2 school. An added benefit is that each school now has publicly accessible wireless Internet.
Riverside Principal Lacey Moser said both grants are positively impacting her school and have helped integrate technology into everyday lesson design. But she emphasized that nothing can replace good instruction in the quest for student achievement.
"The number one impact in the classroom is the teacher," said Moser. "However, these grants support our teachers and our students by adding tools to the teacher's tool box. Not every tool fits for every job, but the more tools you have, the higher quality and more engaging instruction you can provide by using the right tool for the right job."