The ways in which art and technology are influencing Knoxville school students are vast. Many of the latest uses of technology were on display at four of the school district's buildings Wednesday night, May 8.
Starting off at Northstar Elementary, Smart Boards have become key tools. Mrs. Foster said she utilizes different programs on the boards to teach students. The Smart Boards act as a touch screen, allowing children to spell and perform other tasks with bright, interactive demonstrations.
At West Elementary, where Knoxville's youngest students attend school, Mrs. DeMoss utilizes the Apple TV. This handheld device connects to an electronic board. The board utilizes different apps for a variety of uses. For instance, she has an app that measures the noise level in the classroom. She, and the students, can monitor a meter on-screen, complete with a yellow face that ranges from smiling - when the kids are quiet - to crying, when the kids become too loud. Apps are also available for "rewards" when students do well. Mrs. DeMoss' class likes to make virtual pizzas.
All elementary teachers interviewed use technology for educational purposes. Mrs. Galeazzi at West uses technology to communicate with her students.
Many programs allow students to write or draw on the boards, either using their fingers or specialized pens. When this is done, these programs will recognize the word, or shape and make them look nicer on screen. Enjoyment of seeing their handiwork suddenly perfect in their eyes is not limited to elementary students.
Mrs. Kuntz, while teaching math at Knoxville Middle School, said her students still get excited when the circles they draw suddenly become perfect on screen. Uses of the Smart Boards are similar to those in elementary school, just at the appropriate, more advanced level.
Use of technology reaches its peak at the high school level. Mr. Sanger and some of his auto shop students were proudly displaying the car they have been working on all year. An anonymous donor has provided the shop with cars to rebuild the past several years.
This year, the students also received several new tools, including new technology for scanning and diagnosing engine problems. Sanger added that he provides the students several opportunities to learn how to build and operate engines, as well as putting those skills into practice. A walk around the shop will find several projects students are working on.
The other, traditional classrooms utilize more computerized technology.
In Mrs. Keesling's class, programs such as Photoshop and InDesigned are used for publishing, Dream Weaver is used for web design. Several Google applications are also utilized, as well as workbooks for online accounting.
At Wednesday's event, Mr. Wallace showcased how he is integrating the MacBook computers the school district is purchasing, into his classroom techniques. The Internet and technology allow his students to respond electronically in class, with results being seen right away. Wallace said this has helped his students overcome some shyness, as their answers are submitted and displayed anonymously.
The program he uses for this is called Socrative Teacher, and he is still learning ways to use it. As all students are able to see all of the answers, they are able to learn from each other. For instance, when he asks the class their opinions on a subject, students will say, "I never considered that" when reading the thoughts of another.
There is also plenty of fun to be had with technology. Wallace's students like Blabberize.com, a website that allows students to take a still photo and integrate moving lips and audio with it, to make it appear as though an historical figure is talking to them.
"We continue to make progress in using technology to expand learning opportunities for our students," Superintendent Randy Flack said. "Many teachers are seeking new applications that students can use to expand learning opportunities."
The night was not just about technology.
Students' creativity and artistic talents were on display at every building. Mrs. Davis' folk singing group were playing their guitars and singing at Northstar Elementary.
At West, a video of the students' singing performance, in honor of National Library Week, was being played in the art room. The video was posted on YouTube, which also integrated the technology aspect of the evening. In the same room, art projects were on display, including clay bowls made by the students. Visitors also had the opportunity to learn about fun art forms they could try at home, including homemade watercolors and marker art.
Several tumblers and dancers showcased their talents in the Knoxville Middle School auditorium. Others showed how they were able to invent their own game, with given just a few tools to do so, in the KMS gymnasium.
The Commons area of KHS were full of visual artwork. In the background, KHS singers and instrumentalists showcased their musical prowess.
"I continue to be impressed with the visual and performing arts displayed and presented by our students. I think our performing arts will continue to grow when we are using the new auditorium," Flack added.
The excitement of participating in the event made it difficult to take in every presentation at every school. There was so much participation by staff and students, who had so much to share, the two-and-a-half hour event was not enough.