In Jamie Custer’s elementary school classroom, the students already know how to use the G Suite — more specifically, the Google Classroom. As a fourth and fifth grade teacher, Custer is ahead of the curve when it comes to implementing technology as a learning mechanism in the classroom.

A teacher at Pleasant Valley Elementary (part of Central Arkansas Christian Schools), Custer has the advantage of Google Chromebooks in her classroom for each student, which they use for collaboratively working on presentations, taking quizzes and more.

“Not a lot of teachers at the fifth grade level are using technology in the classroom; I think I am a bit of a frontrunner for it,” Custer said. “I think it’s being used at the high school level a lot, and I taught high school for a few years and that’s where I first started using it.”

Little Rock Family talked with Custer, who’s also mom to two elementary school-aged kids, about her perspective on technology and using it education.

What are some of the ways you integrate technology in the classroom?

I try to use technology to present new concepts to kids because technology is so exciting and engaging for them. If there’s a video online showcasing something I’m teaching, then I try to incorporate that into my lesson.

Kids love technology — it’s exciting so it really piques their interest and helps them see the current connections and makes what I’m talking about visually appealing for them when I’m using it in front of the whole class.

Do you assign homework that requires using technology?

I keep technology in the classroom. In high school, I assigned homework all the time where they had to use the Google Classroom to work on a research paper or whatever we’re working on. With little ones, they’re still learning to use the online world and I feel a sense of responsibility that they’re monitored and safe and so at this point I’m not asking them to do any of that at home.

Have there been any downfalls to using technology?

The cons are just that technology can do a lot for kids, but they still need a teacher in the classroom. Really, you could learn everything you needed to learn on the computer. It’s all there. I think kids still have to have that relationship with a teacher — technology can’t offer that. Technology can’t encourage kids in their strengths and encourage them when they’re down or feeling defeated by something … The teacher-student relationship is way better than anything technology can offer in the classroom.

How can using technology for education impact kids’ careers down the road?

The technology they are going to be using 20 years from now is going to be beyond our imagination and there’s no way we’re going to know what that is. So we can teach them to adapt to a changing world and learn new things and how to create content not just consume it.

What’s your advice to parents as they navigate the technology minefield?

I think parents have got to be really diligent and really intentional about the kind of technology that’s consumed at home. If they want to use technology for educational purposes they have to be really careful about how much screen time their kids are getting in a day. If they’re using a computer a lot at school then that needs to be taken into consideration.

I don’t want kids to have too much screen time even if it is really valuable screen time. From what we know about addiction and brain development and things like that, we don’t want them looking at a screen too much during the day. Parents just have to be careful about that.

Technology is just one aspect of education, and parents have a lot to consider when choosing the direction of their child’s educational path. Families in central Arkansas have incredible schooling options. Whether you’re wondering if a private school is the right choice for your child, considering homeschooling or wanting to know more about the public school districts and charter school options, there is a school that is sure to be a perfect fit for your child.

In the annual All School Guide, Little Rock Family highlights all of those choices as well as tuition and enrollment details and ways for you to find more information — from an admissions contact person to a website where you can dive in and get all your questions answered.

Summer may be just around the corner, but the next school year will be here before we know it, and we hope our All School Guide can help ease any decision making you’ll face between now and then. Whether you affirm your decision to keep your child where he or she is at or make a big change in your schooling choices, we’re sure you’ll do what’s right for your family and child. Because in the end, it’s all about how they learn best.

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