Wamego’s new iTech Center, located in the high school’s library, levels the playing field, West Elementary School teacher Sherry Helus said.
The center is funded by a tax credit through the state. It has nine Macbooks and 60 iPads. The goal of the center is to have the area students teach the community how to use the technology.
Every Tuesday since the April 3, third and fifth graders from West Elementary go to the technology lab for an hour. Students will be going to the technology center until May 8.
The children are split in to groups of seven to eight and spent 20 minutes at each station. Students create their own drawings, search for images on Google Earth, or film their own trailers on iMovie at each of the stations.
“We are putting learning in their hands,” Mary Lonker a teacher at the Wamego High School said.
Helus said she was surprised at how many of her students were already familiar with the program Google Earth.
Students use the iPads and head outside to film their own movie trailers and then edit the movies using the iMovie software. High school students in the school’s broadcast class help the elementary school students edit their trailers.
Lonker was one of the catalysts who helped launch the technology center. After Lonker received an iPad, she started meeting with elementary school teachers on ways to incorporate iPads into the classroom. From there, Lonker started attending several workshops on the same subject. Now, she is hoping to make her own podcasts and textbooks soon.
“It’s all going to be virtual,” Lonker said about future classrooms.
Helus said that getting technology in to children’s hands is important because of how technology is going to be interlaced in their future lives.
“There are 21 students in my classroom,” Helus said. “Nineteen of the students have access to the internet at home, but that still leaves two students without it.”
During the week, the third and fifth graders have at least 35 minutes in which they can spend in a computer lab, but Helus does not think that is nearly enough time. The technology center can help make up for that lost time, she said.
The new technology center has also forced teachers to step up their hi-tech know-how.
Lonker said she barely knew how to use her iPad before attending workshops and even had her daughter teach her how to work iMovie, but she said she is getting more comfortable with her tablet.
She added that adults need to embrace the idea of their children teaching them technology.
Barbie Norton, the elementary technology teacher, said students look forward to Tech Tuesdays every week.
“There is a teacher, who has a board that looks like Twitter account and students post things on there,” Norton said. “Every Tuesday, students write (hashtag) TechTuesday on the board.”
The technology center has several workshop sessions scheduled in April and May so parents can learn about all the apps their children are using during their Tech Tuesdays.
There is also an iPad Basics workshop. Both iPad sessions are $5. The Wamego Technology Center is also open from 4-8 p.m. on Monday and Thursday.
Norton said people can also learn how to pay bills online or use other communication applications such as Skype and FaceTime.
The center is currently, in its infancy, but Helus said the center has a bright future.
“The goal in the next four years is more accessibility and greater usage,” Helus said. “Getting kids more involved and running the programs, because they are really the experts.”