New Tech dawn of a new day at Oregon-Davis

HAMLET — It certainly isn’t your father’s classroom.
Oregon-Davis Schools entered their New Tech initiative at the beginning of the school year and the changes for the corporation go much deeper than just a corresponding facelift to the facilities and new technology. At its face, the initiative has a computer in the hands of every student and emphasizes the use of technology in learning.
Beyond that face is a much deeper impact on the way students learn, and teachers teach. Part of the school’s renovation was to take down some classroom walls and open up larger areas for students. Several teachers teach in the same room with plenty of movement and activity of students – reminiscent of a normal busy office with people working on several projects all around the room.
The old taboo of “copying” somebody else’s work is gone. It’s actually encouraged. Learning is project based, life based, and like a normal office – teamwork is the theme of the day.
If the reviews of both teachers and students in the early going is any indication, the program has a very bright future.
“It’s project based learning and we’re able to interact a lot more with each other,” said sophomore Bailey Masterson, “We’re not relying on a teacher to tell us things, we’re finding out for ourselves.”
“I’m new to teaching so it all seems pretty normal to me. But I know that some who’ve been teaching longer might think that there’s a lot of chaos in the room,” said Jennifer Felke, who teaches business and computer education at the junior and senior high schools. “We’re trying to replicate the real world and real work place. Relevance is the goal. There’s been a lot of emphasis placed on technology and the computer, but it’s a lot more than that. That’s just the tool we are using to give them the skills they need to learn,” Felke said.
“My son is very shy; and I think he’s going to benefit greatly from this,” said Kim Berg, whose son Ryan is a freshman at Oregon-Davis. “He’s gaining confidence and real communication skills with others in a normal classroom environment. Those are the skills he’s going to need to be a success in life.”
Teaching across normal class lines has also been a goal of the program to interconnect lessons in several disciplines. Math and science are taught together in the same room as are the various language arts and social studies, teaching students to apply skills across the curriculum.
“I really love having content to teach,” said Felke. “For class today we were working on the computer skill of making a timeline. We made a historical timeline using their history lesson. I like having that content to teach along with the computer skills.”
“My assignment today was to bring in my favorite snack,” said Sarah Hodge, a sophomore discussing her food science class. “We had to break down all the nutrients and talk about their chemistry.”
The program is even a hit with some who hadn’t been excited about school before. Wyat Saylor admits that he was not a star student in his junior high years but now a freshman he feels that will change.
“I used to lose papers and forget to turn in assignments,” he admitted about his organizational skills. “Everything is right on the computer now. I can make my own folders and things and I don’t lose things or forget them.”
It’s also a hit with administrators. Oregon-Davis Principal Greg Briles has had more time to work on the final headaches of a summer of renovation and final preparation for New Tech, owing to the lack of another work load.
“Discipline problems have almost disappeared,” said Briles. “We’ve had one discipline problem since school began. Kids are more confident in their skills to communicate with each other. Kids who used to walk around slouched over and looking at the floor are walking around with their heads held up and with some confidence in themselves.”
While the New Tech initiative is in its early operational stages, teachers and administrators at Oregon-Davis spent several years training and preparing to implement the system. That training appears to have paid off.
“I think some of our parents may have been concerned early on, but they’re coming around very quickly,” said Briles. “We had an open house here the other day; and we had more parents in attendance than we’ve ever had. We’re going to have another information session here in a few days to answer any questions they may still have. Once they understand what we’re doing and see the affect it’s having, they like what they see.”