A group of first- and second-graders sit on the carpet in front of a SMART board in Orchard Elementary School’s library.
The projected computer screen is a change from the classic chalkboards. They allow teachers access to a host of tools provided by Google.
The Richland School District is working on incorporating them into all of the classrooms.
“A lot of our teachers are feeling overwhelmed,” said Shirley Falls, a third-grade teacher at the school. “It’s hard to keep up with technology.”
Falls, and, her partner, Amanda Workman, are training a batch of Tech Ninjas. The group of highly capable Orchard ElementarySchool students are learning how to use the SMART boards and other technology.
The two women describe themselves as tech geeks who want to share their love of technology with students.
Falls and Workman started the program last year after they were asked by their principal to create a program for students learning at a higher grade level. The goal of the Tech Ninjas is to find a way to help integrate technology into classrooms and help students and teachers struggling to adjust.
“We love learning about new techonology,” Workman said. “(The program is) our way to keep up with it and pass on our passion to students.”
The teachers started with the fifth-grade students during a boot camp held on two afternoons in the beginning of October. The students had the chance to help mentor younger students during two other boot camps — one for third- and fourth-graders and the other for first- and second-graders.
The students will complete monthly projects using Google Classroom during the course of the year.
“This month their task is to create a QR code,” Falls said.
The Quick Response codes can be scanned using a cellphone, and the students can decide the image that appears.
Falls and Workman said the class curriculum changes depending on the technology they find to share with the students.
Falls said teachers have asked her to “teach my students and then they can teach me.”
Workman said she heard from a teacher that a student used a SMART board to display his photography editing.
A student last year continued his education into technology. He came into the classroom carrying a copy of Java Script for Kids.
“(The program) is giving them actual leadership and communication skills,” Workman said. “We really tried to use things that are free, so no matter what the student situation is they can access these resources.”