A group of speakers at the Democratic National Convention tonight, during the 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. time slot, will talk about “fighting for a lifetime of children and families.”

One of those speakers, Dustin Parsons, a fifth-grade teacher at Pine Haven Elementary School in Bauxite, Ark., has given his students a lifetime of skills by teaching with technology.

Parsons’ school district gives Chromebooks to every student in grades 3-12. Parsons uses them to teach math and social studies.

“We use the device to bring the standard alive,” Parsons said.

When teaching geometry, Parsons uses the Chromebooks to create 3-D models of the shapes that the students are studying to allow them to learn visually, by studying the shape right in front of them.

Parsons’ fifth-grade students are already technologically savvy because they know how to manipulate games on smartphones and laptops, but Parsons wants to teach them to use the devices for educational purposes.

“I want them to learn to use the technology for good and not just as a play toy,” Parsons said.

Parsons emphasizes that his school is still learning what it can do with technology because it took a couple of years for teachers, parents, and students to get used to the Chromebooks. Technology isn’t present in every lesson.

The school is looking at ways that it can integrate more technology and improve the effectiveness of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes. Some ideas include forming a robotics team where students can build and compete with one another, and using 3-D printers that students can use to make models of what they’re learning.

In order to improve the way math and engineering classes are taught, teachers need to encourage students to look at the way these subjects influence the world around them.

“We need to have an open mind,” Parsons said. “The skills need to be taught to improve the future.”

Parsons believes that money spent on technology should be allocated based on arising needs. Rather than shelling out money on new Chromebooks or iPads far in advance, money should be spent as new devices and methods arrive. Also, students would feel more inclined to learn and use technology in their future careers if their opinions were taken into consideration.

“Students should have a voice in what’s going on,” Parsons said.

Parsons believes that if administrators listened to what students wanted to do with technology and took their advice, students would be more confident in using technology to become entrepreneurs or explore a career in STEM.

Parsons went to school in Arkansas when Hillary Clinton was the state’s first lady. He has met her a couple of times, “but that doesn’t mean we’re best friends,” Parsons said. When the Clinton campaign asked him to speak, Parsons was moved.

At the convention tonight, Parsons will highlight what Clinton has done for education over her time in public office with a focus on moving toward the future.

“I’m really humbled to speak for teachers,” Parsons said.

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Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.