By Renee Foose, Special to the AFRO

Fort Worthington Elementary in East Baltimore is a school that was designed and built to meet the needs of a new generation.  Teachers are not wasting anytime tapping into what motivates children to learn.   They are using an array of technology to connect with a new generation of students.

“I-gen” is a term being used to define the generation following Millennials.  Both generations are known for their fearless use of high-tech devices.

Fort Worthington Elementary is finding success giving students access to technology at an early age. (Google Maps)

Both generations were exposed to computers in school.  What separates their shared experiences is how teachers are now using technology to enhance the learning process.

Eva Clifton, 36, is in her 12th year of teaching and her second at Fort Worthington.  Clifton welcomed a group of 18 kindergarten students to the new school year two weeks ago.  This group, the graduating class of 2031, came already “familiar with iPads” Clifton told the AFRO.

She is using this technology familiarity to build on students learning as she begins the process of teaching reading and writing.

“The students are comfortable using apps, but not the internet, which is good” she said.  One of the apps students are using now is called Raz-Kids, an interactive reading program with many different ability levels.

Children can select their own topics from an e-book, then watch and listen as the book is read to them.  Clifton said introducing this reading technology in kindergarten “exposes students to a variety of text, rich vocabulary, and does so based on student interest.”

Clifton uses Raz-Kids as a supplement to small group instruction and traditional teaching methods to teach reading.  The students are developing “a love of reading” because technology “allows for personalization” she said.

Swiping comes easy to these students and Clifton uses that skill to teach “letter and number tracing” on the iPad.  This skill is then reinforced using paper, pencil, and journals.  All of Clifton’s students from last year’s kindergarten class left for first grade reading on grade level.

Stacey Davis, a media and instructional technology coordinator for the school system, said one of her goals is to have technology rich classrooms throughout the school system. Worthington is one of 10 schools with state of the art technology.  Davis said five more similar schools will open next school year.

Davis and her team are responsible for professional development of the teaching staffs.  In the past, teachers used technology to allow students to conduct research, coordinate, and collaborate.  Now, personalized instruction also is a regular part of the process, where the iPad, the whiteboard, or laptops are all an extension of the teacher.

Crystal Francis is the director of early learning programs and said some of the greatest benefits are “soft skill development.”  Specifically, “thinking critically, problem solving, and conflict resolution” she said.  The technology rich environment is a natural place for students to work on these skills.  “They do it every day,” she said.

Some Baltimore City Schools are on a rapid trajectory to close the digital divide and skill gaps for their students with this innovative approach to school design and teaching.   “Technology is changing everything for these students,” Davis said.