Twin Rivers Makes SMART Use of Technology

With its 56 students, Twin Rivers Community School District in Bode might be considered small in numbers. However, it’s another example of a small Iowa district offering big educational opportunities for its kids.

Each classroom, prekindergarten through 5th grade, includes a Smart Board and Smart Table. A laptop computer is available for every student in grades K-5. Classes are divided into K-1, 2-3 and 4-5 which is known as multi-age or looping classrooms where students and teachers stay together two consecutive years.  (Students in grades 6-12 are welcomed by the Humboldt Community School District. Both Twin Rivers and Humboldt are connected with the same curriculum from preK-12th grade.)

Don Hasenkamp, elementary principal, feels extremely fortunate to be able to have the technology teach the students.

“It is extremely exciting to see students engaged on a regular daily basis with a blending of both teacher and technology instruction,” Hasenkamp said.

Walk through the building and you’ll find students active and very engaged in learning. Students in Will Dotson’s classroom learn about coordinates or ordered pairs by playing Battleship on an iPad. Another student was using the Smart Board to play HangMouse, an online vocabulary game much like Hangman. Others are entering data from a recent science assignment into an Excel document. In the kindergarten classroom, teacher Jan Ketchum helps her students find words that sound the same using the Smart Board.

Deb Jeske, special education teacher, also has a Smart Board in her room. She uses it with kindergarteners who need extra help with counting and sorting. In order to meet a student’s IEP goals, she was learning how to use handwriting component for the Smart Board in her room.

“In this district, technology is so accessible and available to these kids,” Dotson said. “It’s neat seeing kids using technology because it’s just second nature to them. Some days I think I learn more from them!”

Each Wednesday afternoon, students are dismissed an hour early so that teachers can hone their skills and learn new things. For teachers at Twin Rivers, this year’s focus includes learning more about the new resources available through Iowa AEA Online.

Recently, Harriet Adams from Prairie Lakes AEA, featured Bookflix, an online literacy resource that pairs fictional video storybooks with related nonfiction books. It will read the book aloud, has a vocabulary feature and interactive games extend student learning. Titles are also available in Spanish.

The teachers put that training to use the next day. Kathryn Hauck, 2-3 grade teacher, can watch the story, read the book and access it from home. Adams will visit the district again a few more times this year to share additional gems as part of Iowa AEA Online.

The district is also incorporating technology into its newly adopted science curriculum that utilizes both a textbook and instructional technology.

“There is absolutely no delay when students arrive in the morning,” Hasenkamp said. “The students immediately go to the classrooms and open the laptops or explore usage of the educational software on the Smart Boards or Smart Tables. They are immediately engaged, and it is so neat to see us connect with their digital technology world. We believe utilizing technology is the best way to reach and teach today’s youth so we have taken a proactive lead in meeting this instructional challenge.”

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