Allendale Public Schools have a long record of engaging students with technology; from distance learning rooms connected by television and high-speed phone lines in the late 1990s to today’s flipped classroom concept and online textbooks. Their forward thinking use of technology led them to previously having been ranked in the top five Digital School Districts nationally in their category by the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association.

“Technology is one of the driving forces in a rapidly changing world,” says Paul Mulder, technology director for Allendale Public Schools. “Technology is one tool, of many, that helps us fulfill our mission to provide the best educational environment possible, challenging all students to reach their highest potential.”

Rankings for the survey were based on school boards’ and districts’ use of technology to govern the district, communicate with students, parents and the community, and improve district operations. Allendale’s public opinion surveys and online communications with the public, interactive white boards, document cameras and other devices in the classroom and technology-focused training for educators were just a few of the tactics that earned the district 5th place in its category.

Use of technology is encouraged within the district – after one of Allendale’s math teachers learned about the “flipped classroom” approach to teaching and the opportunity it allows to coach students individually to help them succeed, the technique was applied in numerous classed within the district. Through the flipped classroom approach, students use computers to access online resources and answer focus questions before going to class instead of listening to teachers lecture, giving teachers more time in the classroom to work one-on-one with students and help with difficult concepts. Robin Kline uses the flipped classroom structure in her geometry class at Allendale High School.

“The flipped classroom supports students as they learn to use Google, YouTube and interactive websites in a productive way to increase their understanding. It is a true case of learning anytime and anywhere for the students with the technology,” she says.

Robin’s students notice the benefits of the flipped classroom structure as well.

“The flipped classroom setup made class easier for me,” says Ryleigh Emelander, who took a geometry course with Robin last semester. “It was easier to understand what we were learning because I could spend some time trying to figure it out myself, and then the next day in class I could ask any questions I still had about the lesson.”

Robin says that the students engaged in flipped classrooms learn teamwork, experience an increase in reading and comprehension, and are more engaged. She notes that as a result of the setup and format of interaction, discipline problems have become nonexistent.

“Students are truly preparing themselves for the future in a way they have not before,” says Shawn McMaster, who teaches technology concepts and tools courses at Allendale Middle School.

Shawn notes that “employers are seeking people with quality communication and creative skills. The technology that students are using is a part of helping them develop that.”

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