New technology opens doors at Arlington Elementary

Rebuilt school comes with digital display screens, added student laptops

10/8/2017 | TACOMA, Washington

At a first-of-the-year digital lesson for Danay Jones’ first-graders at Arlington Elementary School, students learn geometry at the same time they learn to use the Microsoft Ink application on their HP laptop computers.

Jones links her classroom’s large interactive display screen to her own laptop, then draws a square with digital ink so her students can see it. With help from students, she points out the shape’s characteristics: four sides, every side equal, four corners.

Kids deploy their fingers to draw their own squares on their laptop touch screens. Following Jones’ instruction, they mark each of the four corners of their shapes, then label them one through four.

Jones prompts a conversation about the differences between a square and a rectangle, asking a girl to help her draw one on her display screen and inviting everyone to draw their own rectangles on their laptops.

Together, they discern that rectangles have two shorts sides, one long side and—student Isaiah Maxwell  adds—“sharp corners.”
“I love that word—sharp,” Jones nods.
Computer charging cart
Computers on Wheels, or COWs carts, recharge laptops not in use
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On her display screen, Jones demonstrates the application’s built-in ruler function, that can make wavering finger-rendered lines snap to precise, straight attention. Students pull out their digital rulers, maneuvering them onscreen easily with finger motions. A few discover the built-in protractor, and how it can help them draw perfect circles.

That makes Miles Clarke’s imagination soar. He draws a bicycle, then a motorcycle, then a car, using the circle-creating tool to create the vehicles’ wheels. 

Justin Graves turns his rectangle into a castle, complete with triangle battlements. 

Students clearly have fun as they learn.

New school, new technology

To increase equitable access to technology for students throughout Tacoma , the district equips all newly constructed schools with new technology.  Arlington opened at the start of the school year with more than 20 Sharp interactive display screens. 

Teachers can display information from their laptop computers or write on the screens using their computer keyboard or digital ink—as Jones demonstrated. Teachers and students can move objects, icons or words around on the screen with the touch of a fingertip, much like they can on a tablet device.
Students choose digital ink colors
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Arlington, the first school in Tacoma with wireless display screens, allows teachers to go mobile, moving their lesson into shared spaces outside their classrooms or moving themselves around the classroom.

“I can be anywhere in the classroom,” explained Emily Bannon, the teacher on special assignment (TOSA), who helps classroom teachers learn to use the school’s new tools.

“I don’t have to stand in the front anymore,” Bannon said. “I can be projecting wirelessly from the back of the classroom.”

Bannon loves what she sees teachers doing with the technology: envisioning new ways to take attendance, engaging students in math or spelling games or compiling daily weather reports—a staple in many preschool and primary grade classrooms.

“Staff has embraced the challenge,” Bannon said. “They are making it work.”

PE teacher Jonathan Sousley acknowledges that he’s a technology neophyte. But he plans to develop color-coded displays that help students set and meet fitness goals.

“The technology is going to be beneficial to students because it can tap into a lot of learning styles,” said Title I math teacher Eileen Newton. 

In Arlington’s common areas, display screens can advertise information about upcoming school events or showcase student work.

In addition to the display screens, Arlington also gained new laptop computers for teachers and more Computers on Wheels (nicknamed COWs)—mobile carts thastore and charge 30 shared student devices at a time. Arlington offers COWs for every grade level, one in the library and another in the Learning Resource Center.

“We firmly believe all of our students, regardless of their backgrounds, family income or neighborhood, should have the same opportunities to experience and learn the new technologies that will best prepare them for the careers of tomorrow,” said Superintendent Carla Santorno.

Motivated and happy to learn

Families got a preview of the new Arlington during a “Welcome Back Night” at the start of the school year. 

Karin Magaña has had children at Arlington since 2003. Two of them have now moved on to Stewart Middle School, but she still has a fourth-grader, Emmilie, at the new Arlington.

Magaña likes the touch-screen technology.

“There’s going to be more interaction,” she said. “It will motivate them to learn.”

Javier Osorto, whose son Jadiel started kindergarten at Arlington this year, remembered his school days: “Everything was chalk, or Sharpies. This is a whole other level.”

Jadiel’s mom, Isabel Osorto, approved of the look of the whole school, everything from the technology to the new flexible furniture arrangements.

“It looks futuristic,” she said. “Simple, but colorful.”

Added Javier Osorto: “They are going to be happy to learn here.”