West Side Elementary uses $50k LPRVF grant to increase technology in the classroom

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 7, 2020

More than $50,000 in grant funding from the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation has been used by teachers at West Side Elementary to increase student engagement in instruction while also decreasing the need for disciplinary action.
Gifted teacher Alicia Verweij said the grant was used to purchase iPads, various robotics kits and virtual reality headsets that can all be used in the school’s curriculum.
The program established as part of the grant, called Vigorous Virtual Learning for the Vast Reality, incorporates technology into the curriculum to keep the students engaged. Verweij said that since children in this day and age are used to using various forms of technology, so employing similar items in the class room helps keep their attention, thereby leading to less instances of negative behavior.
Using the robots gives the children experience in coding, or for younger children the simpler robots help children learn about colors or directions.
With the virtual reality headsets, the students can take virtual field trips to far away lands.
Verweij said that, before schools were closed, the technology was used in the classrooms each day. Other uses for the equipment include math and art lessons to teach them about counting or multiplying or paintings and architecture.
By employing the virtual reality headsets, the children can see a 3D version of a building to get a better idea of the structure’s architecture while touring the inside and outside of it.
Or the children can learn about sharks by virtually swimming with them.
“If you look at our school as a whole compared to last year, the infusion of the grant has jump started a boost in school-wide technology use,” Verweij said.
Implementation of the technology in classrooms has led to a 50 percent reduction in the need for disciplinary action due to the students being more engaged in the instruction.
Now, teachers have been using some form of technology in their instruction three or more times a day.
In a statement from Verweij based on data collected after the technology was employed in the school, “According to the reports obtained from our computer science software, FUNecole, at the onset of the grant, students took over 1,100 minutes to deliver 70 percent of the solutions over a 6 week span. At the conclusion, students took less than 240 minutes to produce 87 percent of the solutions with increased skill difficulty, in less than a two week span. In conclusion, as students became more comfortable with their computing skills, they were able to complete more difficult tasks, in less time, with less guidance.”

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