Computers popular tool at Kulm Public School
Jamestown Sun, Jamestown, North Dakota, February
By Keith Norman
|Caption for photo: Seventh-grade
students in Kulm use handheld computers in health class Thursday
at Kulm Public School. The small computers are popular with
students and teachers.(John M. Steiner/The Sun)
Technology, even in the rural schools, is continuing to get smaller
easier to use. The leading edge of one branch of the micro computer
can be found at Kulm Public School.
Students are using handheld computers although they are sometimes
to as Palm Pilots, or PDAs, an acronym for personal digital assistant.
Sandy Zahn, Kulm School technology coordinator, said each student
grades seven through 12 is issued one of these machines.
In the classroom they become the notebook shared by the teacher
student. Questions, worksheets and even tests originating at the
instructors laptop are wirelessly downloaded to the students handheld
computer. Each students reply is displayed at the teachers computer,
Tom Nitschke, Kulm High School principal and health instructor,
demonstrated this use during his seventh-grade health class Thursday.
the students came in and turned on their computers, a question appeared
for them to answer.
If I had verbally asked this same question only two or three students
would have responded, more students would have been thinking about
answer, but a couple of the kids would be sitting in the back daydreaming,
said Nitschke. This way every student has to respond to the question.
Once completed on the handheld computer the assignment can be turned
simply by synchronizing with the teacher. Students and instructors
also establish individual chat sessions of dialogue without involving
Its easy to ask the teacher questions without interrupting the
Dakota Aberle, a seventh-grade student at Kulm High School. She
the ability to access the Internet from wherever she is in the school
building helps her learn.
Not only do these questions, worksheets and assignments get downloaded
the handhelds, they are also available on the Internet at the same
student home ill may not hear the banter between his classmates
teacher but would receive the same information that was presented
classroom, including future assignments, at the same time as the
But freedom from paper comes with some student responsibility.
charged battery keeps the little computer running about three hours,
said. Students who dont remember to stick their handheld in a charger
the opportunity arises, usually over the lunch hour, are destined
writing in a notebook during their afternoon classes.
This technology may have some additional future uses.
Some day we may not have storm days. Nitschke said. We can present
information and assignments over the Internet they can download
handhelds at home during bad weather.
Nitschke added that the same process might be used by a school
four days per week to conserve fuel and cut costs.
The expansion of computers in the classroom at Kulm started back
according to Zahn.
The school was eligible for a Title 2 Part D grant from the North
Department of Public Instruction. The staff sought ways to put the
computer technology in the hands of the students, Zahn said. The
they launched could be called a miniature version of a laptop university.
The first phase of the project occurred in the elementary school,
Zahn. The grant was used to purchase tablet personal computers.
machines allow input by both the normal keyboard generally associated
a laptop but also recognize handwriting using a stylus on the screen.
As the first school to make widespread use of these computers,
staff had to be innovative.
Not only did teachers have to find ways to improve the curriculum,
to design and have locally built the carts that hold the machines,
The tablet personal computers are used for kindergarten through
grade. Zahn said their larger size makes them easier for small hands
manipulate and the larger screen works better for the blockier writing
a small child. While the school doesnt have enough of the tablet
issue one per student each teacher makes use of them at least one
Any use of high technology comes with high costs. Kulm school has
more than $300,000 in grant money on these learning tools.
But the school has also seen increases in test scores. Twice a
spring and fall, Kulm school participates in the Northwest Evaluation
Association or the NWEA test. This examination measures summer regression
or how much learning is lost during June, July and August.
Our test scores are dramatically improving, Zahn said. The students
That has been demonstrated in the fall when teachers and students
If a teacher forgot anything over the summer the students will
The students also feel they learn more with the handheld computer.
Nitschke credits that to the ease of operation and excitement of
inherent to the handheld computer.
Its really a great help with any assignment, said seventh-grader
Nitschke, and typing is easier than writing. Jasmine also plans
to use the
handheld computer in the future because, everythings in your pocket.
Jessa Lindgren, also a seventh-grade student, offered praise for
technology as well.
Its nice, she said. I can look up stuff on the Internet and I dont
hand in assignments, just sync with the teacher.
Kulm Public School has been a pioneer in using this technology
Dakota Schools, said Zahn. They hope that in the future other schools
make use of the same equipment and methods.
We hope to someday work with other schools, she said, and exchange
information of what works best.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by
e-mail at email@example.com