On a gloomy January day, 23 enthusiastic Walter Jackson Elementary second-grade students rushed into the school's computer lab.
Regardless of grade level, this happens daily because the school integrates cutting-edge computer technology with the classroom.
On this day, students in Trina Horton's classroom had an appointment with librarian Todd McDonald.
They were studying the value of coins and how they look. The program McDonald was using, "Design Your Own Bill," allowed students to create their own money.
In a later visit to the lab, the students were allowed to use the money they created to shop at makeshift businesses.
"We are reinforcing what they are learning in the classroom, but taking it a step further," McDonald said.
He said students come to the computer lab at least once a week for "focus projects." The first-graders that followed Horton's class were working on a slide show to go with a play they were performing.
Horton said the computer lab is a "valuable bonus" because it allows students to "do things in a matter of minutes that would take me one hour to teach them."
Students also have access to their work after they leave school.
"We have cases where students are explaining to their parents what they are doing," Horton said. "If they can explain it, we know they understand what we are teaching."
Kennedy Cowley, 9, created a $100 bill with the American flag. She got her first computer for Christmas and has accessed her work from home.
"It's fun," she said, as she looked over to Jaquan Davis' screen to remind him he needed to capitalize his first name.
Reaching for his keyboard, she said: "Let me show you how to do it."
"Thank you," Davis responded.
Horton, an Athens native and teacher for 10 years, said it's amazing how computer-savvy elementary students are.
"Look," she said, pointing to the students whose ears were covered with headphones. "They know what they are doing, and we have to meet them at their level. They catch on fast."
Walter Jackson wasn't always this way. When McDonald came to the K-5 school four years ago as a librarian, his primary function was to promote reading and integrate new media.
He requested control of the computer lab, and Principal Rhonda Reece agreed. McDonald still has some of the old computers that were there when he took over.
"Just about everything we do in this school, and most of what the students do, starts with a computer," he said. "Technology is everywhere, and we have to make sure these kids are prepared."
Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469 or email@example.com.
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