Last November, Hawk Ridge Elementary School officially became a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) pilot school for CMS. Hawk Ridge is one of 21 pilot schools in CMS.
Troy Moore, principal of Hawk Ridge, is eager for his school to be the first elementary school in the area to use tablet devices every day. Students are encouraged to bring in their iPad, iPhone, iTouch, tablet, smartphone, Kindle Fire, or laptop.
“It is a much better response than I expected,” Moore said. “As of January 3rd, about 60 percent of students in third, fourth and fifth grades are bringing in their own device. One class is almost at 100 percent participation.”
Security measures include signing in/out devices on a signup sheet, and teachers keep doors locked when out of the room. Students access a secure WiFi network that CMS recently upgraded.
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“These are all issues we need to address because the country will transition to digital textbooks and testing sooner than many people think,” Moore said.
According to a Scholastic News and a Canadian MSN news source online, South Korea has already invested $2 billion in digitizing student textbooks. France, Singapore, and Japan have also joined the race.
During the past couple of years, Hawk Ridge PTA has funded the purchase of 85 iPads for the school. These are for students who do not bring in devices.
“The BYOT initiative allows students to bring in their own devices so we can move more quickly to a 1:1 environment, where all children have their own device,” Moore said.
Every teacher at Hawk Ridge was given a school iPad for use in the classroom. Teachers were encouraged to take them home this past summer. Moore said, “My advice to schools is to make sure teachers are given the time to connect with the technology.”
Kindergarten, first and second grade classes have not brought in their own devices yet, except for one pilot day this past December. The lower grade levels will move forward the first part of this year.
Moore said the upper grade level teachers and students are excited about the devices.
“For several classrooms, it has evolved from keeping the devices in their backpacks, to keeping them on their desks. It’s not just vegetative screen time. They are engaged in learning. They are truly manipulating, researching and finding out things. It gets them excited about learning. I think we have talked so much for years about kids being responsible for their own learning, and this is the tool that is truly accomplishing that.”
Daniel Harabin, a fourth grade teacher at Hawk Ridge, said, “It has changed even the way we instruct the kids. For example, before the devices, the teacher might introduce the topic of energy from a textbook or reading passage. Now we can give them a list of kid-friendly websites about energy and tell them to research specific aspects.”
Another favorite activity is to develop a video on topics using iMovie.
Moore said, “We were surprised at how quickly the movies became professional looking.” Manipulative Spelling and math fact apps are also popular. In addition, students can instantly check spelling on a dictionary app, or look up topics on Wikipedia when the class doesn’t know the answer to a question.
Harabin said, “The learning process is closer to the real world. For instance they are discovering how to find out if a site on the Internet is a quality source. The kids are excited and engaged now, and my job is much easier because of that.”
Audrey Mershon, a second grade teacher, said, “The kids knew how to use the equipment and if an issue came up, they worked together to troubleshoot.”
Sean O’Leary, a fifth grade teacher, said “BYOT has improved our classroom efficiency and collaborative ability immensely in the past two months. Hawk Ridge is truly blessed to have this opportunity.”