Leyden teacher notes technology shift

Lisa Ripley, a social studies teacher and longtime enthusiast of technology in the classroom, addresses a group of teachers during a session entitled Stories from the Trenches Aug. 1 at East Leyden. | Mark Lawton/Sun-Times Media
Lisa Ripley, a social studies teacher and longtime enthusiast of technology in the classroom, addresses a group of teachers during a session entitled Stories from the Trenches Aug. 1 at East Leyden. | Mark Lawton/Sun-Times Media

Lisa Ripley has seen a shift in how her students interact with technology over the last few years.

Ripley, a social studies teacher, spoke Aug. 1, during a symposium put on by Leyden High School District 212 about putting a computer in the hands of every student. Ripley, who has been involved in using technology in classrooms since the early 1990s, said students see technology differently.

“Kids I see now look at computers at pieces of entertainment,” Ripley said. “They’ve been at home on their device as entertainment. Four years ago, they didn’t have computers at home or iPads. Part of your struggle is to break them of that. It’s not a play toy.”

During her session entitled Stories from the Trenches, Ripley also spoke about teaching students how they appear online and about privacy.

“When you got up this morning, you paid attention to what clothes you put on,” Ripley told teachers and school administrators. “Your public face in a digital environment is the same way.”

Ripley will sometimes look up a Twitter post or Facebook comment by students in her class.

“Ask the girls, do you want to date that guy (with ridiculous Twitter post)?” That’s what’s meaningful to them.”

Laptops, iPads, cellphones or other devices in the classroom are not a substitute for adequate teaching.

“If you were boring before computers, you’re going to be boring afterward,” Ripley said to laughs. “If it’s not engaging, you have to make it so.”

Discipline is a mixed subject. Ripley does recommend walking around the classroom while students use their laptops. And if she catches them frequently doing something besides classwork, she’ll take an image of their screen (called a screen shot), which she can show to their parents.

On the other hand, punishment is not appropriate all the time.

“You need to accept some behaviors,” Ripley said. “This silliness went on in a paper environment too. They didn’t pay attention to you, talked to neighbors, did homework for another class. Teachers shouldn’t overblow behavior because it’s in a different context.”

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