Technology grant sparks young journalists

Published 10:16 pm Friday, September 24, 2010

The students in the creative writing class at Pike County High School are writing their way into the 21st Century thanks to a $160,000 Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) Grant.

Over the summer, cutting-edge technology was added to classrooms at Pike County and Goshen high schools and at Banks Middle School. That technology is designed to improve the writing skills of the students.

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With the funds, the Pike County School System was able to purchase 190 Netbooks for 15 teachers and two librarians. The Netbooks make is possible to free up the two computer labs at Pike County and Goshen so many students are benefiting from the grant.

Alice Phillips, PCHS English teacher, said the English teachers in grades seven through 12, received 20 Netbooks, which are actually small laptop computers, and a cart that is wired to charge the batteries when the computers are not in use.

“To participate in this technology grant program, teachers had to agree to use the technology, partner with a business, take on-line courses and use Skype to collaborate with other teachers,” Phillips said.

Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. Its additional features include instant messaging, file transfer and video conferencing.

The new classroom technology is generating a lot of interest and enthusiasm among Phillips’ students.

The students have recently submitted poems to a contest and are writing essays to submit to a contest. They have also written news articles to be published in The Messenger.

“We had brainstorming sessions where we talked about things that we know about that others would have an interest in knowing,” Phillips said. “We also brainstormed about controversial issues. The students then chose an idea for their news articles.”

The students used interview and research techniques to develop their articles, which they wrote using the Netbooks.

“The students write their articles, send them to me and I read them and make suggestions and send them back,” Phillip said. “There is no paper involved.”

The ease and immediacy with which the students and teachers can communicate is just one of the benefits of the technology. However, it is the opportunity to have an audience for their work that seems to have the students most excited.

“They have really worked hard and are anxious to see their articles in the newspaper,” Phillips said. “This writing project is a good learning opportunity for them and a chance to share their thoughts and ideas.

“In today’s world, students are not reading and writing as they should. They too often don’t realize how important it is to be a good writer and you can’t be a good writer unless you are a good reader.”

Phillips said by writing for an audience, the students begin to see the value and power of the written word.

“Reading and writing are important in most any job that you have,” she said. “Students are learning that and they are learning that writing can be fun. They have enjoyed writing news articles and seeing them in print for others to read will further encourage them.”

Phillips said the EETT Technology Grant will make a difference in the writing abilities of the students and that difference will better prepared them as they take the giant step into the work world.


Band is big attraction on Friday nights

Although the football team plays on Friday nights, half-time is a main attraction. The Pike County High Band entertains its audience. The band has performed for many years under the gleaming stadium lights. Dancing and playing their hearts out, the one thing that matters is having fun and giving it all on the field.

The band has plenty of help with its music and styling dance moves from friends of the band director, who are pleased to help. For example, Shannon Billings has been helping the auxiliaries dance and twirl to keep the audience’s attention. He has done exceptionally well for it seems the dancers catch the eye of viewers most of the time.

“I love working with the children. They are hard working. If it’s a good reaction we get from the crowds then I am content and I know that we have accomplished what we’ve been practicing. As far as I am concerned even being a small band we are going to The Battle of The Bands to jam with the best of them. I am proud of how far my band has come.” James Oliver, band director, explained.

“I’ve been teaching for two years here at Pike County,” Ms. Tamara Stephens, a chemistry teacher, smiled, “and I love watching the band at half-time. I enjoy the rhythm and though I don’t dance, I do clap along with the beat.”

Music is an inspiration. It should inspire people to do anything. Maybe to be a better person, sing loudly, laugh more, or dance ridiculously while no one looks. Just know that at half-time in the Bulldog Stadium, a person can count on the Pike County High School band to spice up the field and inspire everyone. The band members always do their best to get the crowd out of their seats, dancing to the beat of the drums and the tune of the horns.

– Samantha Girouard

Tech grant pleases teachers, students

When Pike County High School received a technology grant of $160,000, students and teachers were both extremely pleased. Designed to target English classrooms in schools across Pike County, mini-laptops and promethean boards, which are like computerized white boards, have been awarded to middle and high schools in hope of improving student writing scores. English teachers have had to attend workshops on technology, take an online course to supplement the new technology advancements, collaborate with teachers using Skype, or communication software, partner with a business, and sign a contract to ensure that progress would be made. In addition, students have been given an email account that is linked to a teacher’s account. Teacher will have their students submit writing assignments using their email accounts in an attempt to “go green.”

–Alonzo Griffin

Grad exams make students, teachers nervous

Next week at Pike County High School many students will be anxious and nervous because the graduation exams will be taking place. I do not think I am ready for the test. Something tells me it is going to be difficult. On, September 20th students will take the social studies portions of the test. On, the 21st they will take science/bio. On, the 22nd the math portions will be taken. 23rd is reading. On the 24th language is the last day of testing for seniors who have not already passed. Take only the test you have not passed. Dec. 6th-10th is the senior’s last and next opportunity to past the test. In the spring testing for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders will be testing February 28th and March 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th

– Lyric Davis and Jasmine Key

Tech grant helps ‘go green’

Pike County Schools were giving a $160,000 technology grant from the Alabama Department of Education. The schools getting these grants is designed to improve student academic achievement through the use of technology as Stephanie Snyder said. These grants are used to target all English classes at Pike County and Goshen High School. With this grant it should increase the writing scores of all students through technology. The grant got grades seven through twelve net books which are mini laptops. These laptops will help students writing skills through in class training and coordinating writing assignments with other students. All English teachers were required to take intense technology training on how to implement the new technology in classes. The teachers are required to assign writing assignments to students, doing this is to try to “go green” in the classrooms.

– Brittany Adams

Fall a busy time for testing

During the months of September and October, Pike County High School is going to be extremely busy with testing. In just one week, every grade except 7th and 8th will be involved in the math portion of the graduation exam. The history exam is the same day as the math, but only 10th-12th will take that. Students can have as long as they need on the exam so they can do their best. The testing is one of the reasons why PCHS’ homecoming was pushed up to Sept. 10. The dates on testing are September 20th-social studies/math, 21st-science/biology, 22nd-math, 23rd-reading, and 24th-language. December 6th-10th, the seniors will take only the parts of the grad exam that they have failed. There is also spring testing that will be available for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders and some 8th and 9th graders. Eighth graders and freshmen will take only one part of the exam.

– Emily Parker and Jane Williams

Students enjoying netbooks

For weeks now, English classes at Pike County High School have been enjoying new Lenovo net-books. A $160,000 grant by the Alabama Department of Education has been given to the Pike County Board of Education, making it possible for the school to have the technology. Pike County High plans to “go green” by allowing students to submit their work via e-mail and stopping the use of paper. During the summer, the school’s English teachers received technology training in order to learn ways to use the net-books in their classrooms. For example, Mrs. Philips, a creative writing teacher at PCHS, has partnered with the Troy Messenger. This allows her class to submit articles about the Brundidge community using e-mail. The articles will have a chance to be included in the newspaper.

Students at the high school will be increasing their writing skills and getting prepared for college using their new technology.

– Tyra Griffin

New coaches making mark

There are quite a few new coaches at Pike County High School. How is that affecting the school and sports programs? Each coach has to have a teaching job also, whether its physical education or science. So as they get new coaches to school, they also receive many new teachers. This is beneficial because it could expand their choice on classes they can take, and also it could lead to the realization that they do need more room for their expanding classes.

New coaches could also affect the sports at Pike County because the coaches are more experienced. They provide more insight into sports because that is what they specialize in. This could improve Pike County’s rates in the viewing of the high schools sports, and the records of the many different sports teams. So as you can see, the addition of new coaches to Pike County’s “roster” has many favorable factors.

– Kaitlyn Allen and Molly Hadley

An opinion on gambling

Alabama’s Task Force on gambling has raided several casinos around Alabama. Republican Bob Riley began a crackdown on illegal gambling 15 months ago. He declared that thousands of gambling devices — electronic bingo machines — in 16 of the state’s 67 counties are actually slot machines, which are illegal in Alabama. The fact is that Governor Riley wants to completely outlaw gambling whether the gamblers are using bingo machines or actual slot machines. The raiding of the casinos in Alabama has caused all but one to be shut down temporarily. The one that still remains open is the Indian casino, which the task force is illegally allowed to raid. Despite the belief of some in Alabama that gambling should be stopped, it should remain legal in the state of Alabama.

One of the bad drawbacks of gambling is addiction. People want to go to casinos to have fun. They take their credit cards and max them out or take their whole salaries and spend them not winning anything; this is definitely the worst side to gambling. Most families know the signs of gambling addiction and there is help for people suffering with this problem. Most people go in moderation to casinos so most don’t have an issue with gambling addiction.

One reason that gambling should remain legal is that is brings in revenue. Victory land, a casino in Shorter, Alabama helped pay for police cars and raise money for the county. Yet this casino has been shut down two times in the past year. Casinos help schools around the state keep valuable tools essential for education for the children. Money that is received from gambling can help a struggling county with finances and can lower the individual’s taxes.

In addition to the revenue and taxes, casinos create new jobs. When Victory Land closed, over 1,600 people lost their employment. In a struggling economy this was a horrible move by Governor Bob Riley. The expense of shutting down the casinos and causing unemployment offices to work longer and harder hours did, in fact, cost Alabama taxpayers more money.

Casinos have pros and cons for gamblers the closing of Alabama’s casinos is hurting some charities that Victory Land has contributed to. With considering the issues that arise about shutting down casinos, the pros outweigh the cons. If the casinos help the state tax, help schools, and provide county services, then it makes no sense to close them. Although gambling is looked down upon by some, apparently many people are going to Alabama’s casinos. Let’s continue to make helpful decisions for our state and let gambling remain legal in Alabama.

– Chris McDonald