MANSON - Manson Northwest Webster schools continue the march forward with new technology. Teachers of all ages are learning new ways to present material that will keep kids engaged.
"The biggest change this year is the influx of technology," said elementary school Principal Justin Daggett.
Three years ago, the high school began providing laptops for every student. This year, the program has expanded into the elementary.
-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Kindergartener Sophia McCullough works on a Chromebook while her classmates complete their “Word Journeys” with paper.
"Our preschool and kindergarten students each have their own iPad Mini," Daggett said.
First and second grades will use both iPads and Chromebooks, while third through sixth grades will have one Chromebook per student.
This will bring new challenges, Daggett said, but the Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency is providing training for the teachers.
"It's geared towards teachers using technology to increase pedagogy," he said. "So it's using technology to foster critical thinking, deeper thinking, letting the students create and innovate, and still teach the Iowa Core curriculum, like we are supposed to teach.
"Our teachers here on staff are lifelong learners, so they're always learning on their own. I would say they're pretty technology-savvy. It's been a very good transition."
Music teacher Brad Bleam said he's already using iPads in his class. Students use Garage Band to create their own songs. They can add guitar, bass, drums, and singing - and some of his students like to rap.
This year, the high school has partnered with Aventa Learning to provide online curriculum, said High School Principal Shawn Holloway.
This program "is allowing us, as we go forward, to have the vast majority of our course information in a digital format," Holloway said.
It's a bit like a textbook that never becomes outdated, he said, but it also has a system to manage student files, and upload or download class information. Students can submit assignments online, chat with others on discussion boards, and access whatever format helps them learn the best - text, images, animation, graphs.
The system will allow for online classes or blended learning, but also gives teachers great flexibility in how they teach their normal face-to-face classes, he said.
"So right now our teachers are in the process of learning how to manipulate (Aventa's management software) Blackboard so they can format their class, so it looks the way they want it, and it isn't just a canned curriculum," Holloway said. "That's what we're doing the second half of this year in professional development."
At the elementary school, the teachers are preparing for a new behavior management system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, which will go into effect next year.
"What that's going to do is come up with common behavioral expectations, so if a child goes from one room to another room there's not a difference in expectations," Daggett said. "We're going to teach that explicitly at the beginning of the year.
"Part of your behavioral problems in school come from adults assuming that kids know how to behave. Assuming that a first-grader knows how to sit down and eat lunch properly, and we can't assume that."
The common expectations will be emphasized, and when kids misbehave they will be retaught, he said. There will also be a big focus on rewarding good behavior, more than punishing bad behavior.
All this is new to Daggett, who was hired as principal last July. Last year he worked in Eagle Grove as a coach and third-grade teacher.
"It's been very challenging just for me personally, just the changing of careers. But I think everything's going good," Daggett said. "I'm still learning the job, the teachers, the Manson way."
So far, he's loving it.
"I have a great staff to work with," he said. "I love the kids."