On Thursday of last week a number of Lerner employees were treated to a technology visit of the Minnetonka Public Schools. The day started out in Deephaven, Minnesota which sounds like a good spot for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Fortunately, the only scary creatures I found in the Minnetonka Community Education Center were pre-caffeinated teachers.
After a light breakfast and introduction by our hosts, we were bussed to our first location; Excelsior Elementary School. I should preface this story by stating that despite working the past 10 years in the educational publishing industry, I have not set foot in an elementary school since the 1980’s. Unsurprisingly, a lot has changed since the days of the sideways ponytail, though I may have spied a few slap bracelets.
Right off the bat, I could tell that this was a happy place for children. Art projects adorned the walls, bright colors were everywhere, and kids zig-zagged the halls like busy bees, flitting from one space to another. I felt like I had invaded a new but all-too-familiar habitat that I no longer belonged to. Also, I felt really big. Lee Drolet, principal of the school, guided us around the facility, stopping in on several classrooms to observe the Lilliputians at work.
The focus of the day was to “see how Minnetonka integrates technology into teaching and learning,” and it was very apparent in everything they did. In a Chinese immersion classroom, the kids were broken up into small study groups. Some of the kids were working with their teacher on a SMART Board lesson, some were using mp3 players to listen to Chinese songs, while others worked on exercises on the computer. I was impressed at how effortlessly the children interfaced with technology, and how well they spoke Chinese. Throughout the rest of the day, I was exposed to various learning technologies, impressive facilities (such as the Deephaven Elementary Media Center), and educators who seemed genuinely excited about their work. Everyone was certainly proud of their accomplishments, and rightfully so.
As an Associate Product Manager for Lerner Digital, it was quite useful to see how technologies (similar to what I work on) are used by children. But not only did I gain valuable insight on the function of technology in the classroom today, it also brought back a flood of memories from my own childhood, both good and bad. For instance, in comparison to what kids are using today, the green screen Apple IIe I played on seems like a disgrace. I know that that was the best there was back then, but I can’t help but feel a bit robbed!
All-in-all, it was an enlightening experience and I left feeling impressed, inspired, and a bit jealous.