Moline Education Forum to Focus on Technology, Online Learning

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The Moline-Coal Valley School District is looking to upgrade its education.

On Wednesday, February 11th, 2015, there will be a community forum at the Coolidge Professional Development Room, 3430 Avenue of the Cities, starting at 6pm.

Chris McKenzie, an English Teacher at John Deere Middle School, and some of his students are going to demonstrate the Google Classroom and Google Chrome Books. Right now, his classes are part of a pilot program experimenting with the concept of 21st Century Skills.

"It really changes the traditional classroom," explained McKenzie. "It's pretty exciting letting technology change what we do and how we do it."

McKenzie uses Google Drive to upload all his assignments to the Google Classroom. In that setting, students can easily access their homework, e-mail each other, chat, and check in from any digital device at anytime.

"I like them, because if you're sick at home or something you can just get on your computer and get on the classroom and do your homework, because [Mr. McKenzie] posts all of it on the classroom," said 7th Grader, Shelby Raverty.

"This is like a revolutionary thing, because all our work is in one place," said 7th Grader, Joe Reddy. "I think it's the best way for kids to learn, because once you put  a Chrome Book in front of them they're more entertained. They're more focused on what they're doing."

McKenzie calls his students "digital citizens," because they grew up with technology and enjoy using it to learn. John Deere Middle School even has a Tech Club, made up of primarily students who help teachers with the Google Classroom.

"They feel like it's their classroom," he said. "I'm less of a dictator and more of a facilitator. I spent a lot more time 1 on 1 or me with a group and it allows for a lot of cool things to happen."

It saves time, too. Instead of asking for the answers, students are encouraged to look them up and do the research on their own or help each other.

"It's so much easier," said Reddy. "If we don't know how to spell something, we don't have to go - 'Mr. McKenzie, how do you spell this word?' - We can just search on Google."

"Usually, I'm raising my hand and asking a whole bunch of questions, but now I don't have to because you can just look it up on the computer."

McKenzie says it's a new level of learning, setting up students today for the careers of tomorrow.

"The jobs that haven't been invented yet, we have to prepare them for those skills like critical thinking and just working together as a team."

After the February 11th Forum, McKenzie plans to present a proposal to the Moline School Board in April. The proposal is to buy more Google Chrome Books, so that there is a 1:1 student device ratio. The program is estimated to cost $110,000 a year, starting in the 2016-2017 school year.