Taking Ctrl+ Over Technology In Schools


Jason Verdin

Mr. Fumagalli leads class discussion during a visit from Representative Wehrli

Meghan Gaither and Bhoomi Sharma

Change /CHānj/ verb to make or become different.


Today, technology helps students and schools improve on their current ways of teaching and widen their skillset. At Neuqua Valley, Chromebooks were introduced three years ago, and with them came online classes, blended classes and even a different way of teaching traditional classes. 

Blended classes are a recent addition at Neuqua that have been implemented in various departments around the school. Mary Van Milligen is currently teaching a blended 20th Century Literature class offered as a semester-long senior English course. This is not the first year she is teaching this class; however, it is still a fairly new option that she believes students should take a chance on. Van Milligen describes a blended class format as, “something that’s favorable to the students and the teacher if it’s done accurately.” In these particular class settings, teachers have the ability to choose when they want to see their students in the classroom. During the other days, students are given specific assignments that need to be completed by a particular date but the students are not required to be physically present in class. They have the option to go to the library, collaborative spaces or the commons. “Due to the flexibility of presenting some of the curriculum online and doing some online activities, it gives the students and me some freedom of time and space,” commented Van Milligen. She explained that she has the ability to call in whomever she needs on a given day. If she sees certain students struggling on a topic, she can assign that select group to come into class to get more one-on-one instruction. And it’s not just her 20th-century class that she believes can be taught online. Van Milligen stated that “every single class has the potential to be a blended course because, again, it’s full teacher autonomy. You can do as much online as you want to, but now you have permission to flip the classroom more.”  When asked about the types of students who would succeed in these classes, Van Milligen referenced a past student and said “when you, as a teacher, have to take time to deal with more behavioral kind of stuff, that’s why the student is struggling. Not because they’re having difficulty with the concepts or the content.” She added that if a student does have the capabilities to hold themselves accountable, teachers can more accurately address and resolve any discrepancies. So, these classes aren’t more challenging than traditional classroom settings, they just require a strong work ethic. Her message about incorporating technology into classes is that it is meant to help benefit the students. 


There are online classes, which do not require the student to attend to a traditional classroom at all, and blended classes that mix both online and traditional type learning. Students are able to pace themselves in blended classes. For instance, if they finish their blended English class homework early, they can then delegate more time to courses they are struggling in. Blended classes, however, do require a certain level of behavioral discipline. And introducing technology into the school and its curriculum has also made it very easy for students to cheat. Students can get answers and papers in a few clicks, and they can pass off answers found on the internet as their own with little suspicion. In an interview with Dr. Lance Fuhrer, Neuqua Valley’s principal, about cheating at Neuqua, he said that despite the plagiarism that the technology introduces, it also helps teachers track where answers came from. He went on to say, “I think people would be surprised at how many students do get caught.” 


Technology in schools have helped not only find student’s plagiarism, but also have helped students and teachers communicate better about their subject materials.When asked about the introduction of chromebooks, Melissa Wilson, the Assistant Principal of Neuqua Valley, replied with “As a school we never focused on the tech, we focused on the why. Why or how is this going to help us engage our students, how is this going to help us let them take ownership of their learning.” Chromebooks have helped schools introduce different types of classes to the students. Fuhrer mentioned that the blended classes taught students how to be more independent at their work, and how the classes teach them a certain amount of self-discipline. In an interview with Kimmia Fotovat, who is a senior at Neuqua Valley currently taking online African American Literature, she mentioned the pros and cons of having to learn literature through a computer. She said, “I would say that it’s a little bit of give and take.” She then continues to talk about the difference between a traditional literature class and an online one, saying that “instead of having it be more novel based, it’s more like current events based almost.”

On a similar topic, Michael Purcell, Director of Core Curriculum for high schools in District 204 was asked about what he does on a day-to-day basis. Purcell said that there was no real routine. He described his job as being able to help teachers by, “either creat[ing] opportunities for them or move barriers out of the way to allow them to do great things with the kids.” Primarily, he believes that technology has impacted the curriculum most notably in the instruction. This is a part of the three pillars that he believes are crucial aspects of the curriculum. First is the curriculum itself: he describes it as the outcomes that teachers and districts are looking to meet. Second is instruction: what are the tools and in what ways will we teach the curriculum? Finally is assessment: this is the way that teachers test whether or not students understood the material. Over the years, technology has influenced Purcell’s role and students’ lives: “The biggest shifts are that we can collaborate more authentically, more instantly, and in more variety of ways,” commented Purcell. The largest emphasis placed on teachers is instruction. He went on to explain that, “Folks that teach are really passionate about the ‘what’. That’s what they got into this profession for, but they’re also passionate about the kids in front of them”. He went on to say that the main purpose of technology is to help students succeed. Purcell believes that teachers now have more freedom over their classroom’s environment, and can focus less on the “what” and more on the “how”.

Similar to the way schools improve and grow on their own traditions and ways, change is constant, something that allows for growth and improvement. With society making huge leaps in technology, it only makes sense that it gets incorporated in schools. Everyone from the district level all the way down to students is feeling the impact of change. It affects everything from the accessibility to the delivery of information in schools. The way students are taught is ever changing, and we look forward to new changes following the progression of society.