Bridgeport seventh grader Andrew Horton stood in the center of the Middle School library Thursday morning powering up the school’s first issued iPad.
“Just to have one. We can do more stuff,” Horton mumbled while staring at the screen lighting up with his name.
Horton was one of many Bridgeport Middle School students who ushered in a new day for the school as iPads were distributed. The district allocated nearly $300,000 earlier this year to purchase the iPads for sixth- through eighth-grade students to use in class and at home.
Bridgeport Middle School Principal Travis Whisenant said the iPads are part of an evolving classroom.
“No longer in education are we the ones giving out information to them,” Whisenant said. “The information is out there. The students now come to us with the information, and we guide them in how to use it.”
Students paid $40 and signed a loan agreement to take home the iPads. Students were not required to get a device. Those choosing not to take one would still have access to one at school.
“If you don’t want that responsibility, they will still have access to an iPad at school and a textbook for home,” Whisenant said to parents.
The iPads are loaded with applications selected by the middle school faculty.
“In January, we got all the teachers together and discussed what apps we are going to use,” Whisenant said. “All the apps are already loaded.”
Internet access at school will be filtered, but Whisenant said that the school is not able to restrict use on the iPad away from campus. The principal said this is another chance to teach students a lesson on how to conduct themselves online.
“It’s a chance to teach them to be good digital citizens,” Whisenant said. “We live in two worlds – here and cyberspace. Learning how to interact in both worlds is important. There’s things you don’t say or do here and in cyberspace. Like here, there are neighborhoods you don’t go to. There are neighborhoods you don’t go to on the Internet.”
Whisenant said it’s up to parents to police their children’s activity at home.
Most parents Thursday didn’t have an issue with that responsibility and were looking forward to their children having the iPads.
“I’m excited. I like that they are doing this and providing this technology for the kids,” said Susan Miller, who was at the library with her seventh grader Tallan. “It’s the way the world is going.
“They are on my iPad and computer all the time. I’m glad that he’ll have one of his own.”
With the iPads students will have 24-hour access to lessons online and other resources. Teachers will also be available outside class for Facetime chats to discuss problems with homework.
“If a student misses class, we do a video on a lesson for them to upload,” said seventh-grade science teacher Jodi-Anne Davidson. “They can also do Facetime and get tutoring help.”
Several parents are looking forward to that access to teachers when trying to help their children with homework.
“As a former teacher, it’s definitely a change, but a good change,” said Gilbert Horton. “It’ll be extremely helpful for learning having access to the information.”
Miller added: “If there is something I don’t understand, I can go online and see the lesson and there will be an explanation.”
For several of the students, it was like Christmas unwrapping the iPads, making the impending start of school more palatable.
“I’ve been looking forward to getting it all summer,” said sixth-grader Cheyanne Weirich. “It’ll be more helpful than a textbook.”
Weirich said the iPads will be a little easier on her back.
“It’s going to be a great year. I won’t be as sore with all the textbooks. My sister was all hunched over carrying them.”
IPADS FOR STUDENTS
Here’s a sample of comments we received this week on the Messenger’s Facebook page, My-Wise.com, in response to a post about Bridgeport ISD students receiving iPads for the upcoming school year.
Just wondering what they are going to do when the screens are breaking the first month the kids have them?
Our tax dollars at work.
No wonder kids don’t know how to actually write their names.
I don’t get what the big deal is. My 4-year-old plays on the one in our home all the time. He hasn’t damaged it. He’s also learned so much from it.
Will they be restricted to only schoolwork or will they be able to load up on games and junk?
Tiffany Bettinger Rodgers
They told us they could download apps, they just need to be smart when doing so. They were given but can, and will be, taken up if used improperly. Parents just need to use good judgment with knowing your kids have access to the Internet and an iPad that is very fragile. I think it’s teaching the kids to be more responsible. …
All pre-k through eighth grade will have them at school. Middle school can pay the fee to take them home. They come with a case, and kids can buy a different case if they want. I have spent the day issuing iPads to very excited kids and parents. Good job, BISD, in preparing our kids for the world in which they will live, not the one in which we grew up.
Mary Barnett Howard
I think it’s insane! Some middle schoolers aren’t mature enough, and the parent is held responsible. Just crazy!
Our kids will still be learning to read and everything else they have always taught in school. The only difference is they are teaching them in a way that they will be more prepared for a job and have more knowledge about the electronics they will have access to.
Melissa Schwartz Hood
Our world is ever-changing. It is the job of educators to prepare students for the world they will enter as employees or employers. Computers are here to stay! Here’s a few things to consider, parents: Kids seem to have a natural ability to understand technology, no matter what kind you throw at them. ( I’d venture it is your kids who help you when you have problems with your computer, iPhone or video games.) Also, after 30 years of teaching I can say that most every student who was taken to a computer lab enjoyed learning on the computer! Yes, there might be a few mishaps, just as there were with textbooks (losing them, leaving them in the rain, writing on the pages, etc.), but there will be a plan in place for those. And yes, parents, if your child does not take care of their iPad, they will be fined, just like they were when textbooks were ruined. Everything is moving toward electronic information and communication. It will not go away. Be happy your schools recognize that and are preparing your children for their futures!
Leisa Gettys Waylett
As a community, we need to realize these kids in our district are our future. We live in a technological world, whether we like it or not. Some kids may take advantage of these devices, but more of them will take care of them and use them for their purpose, to learn. Kudos to BISD and other schools in our area for recognizing the importance of technology and investing in our future, which is our students.
Both of my kids received their iPads at school today. I think it’s awesome of the school to do this for them. I will be getting them the Otterbox Defender series cases, though, like they have on their iPods. Thank you Bridgeport ISD for keeping up with the times we live in.
TECHNOLOGY HAS BECOME IMPORTANT EDUCATIONAL TOOL
In the Wednesday, Aug. 15 issue of Messenger, we asked area school administrators about providing an atmosphere that engages students in the learning process. In this issue, we provide the responses by educators on questions regarding the use of technology in the classroom.
Question: Many schools in the county are incorporating technology into the classroom using items such as laptops or iPads. If your school is currently using these tools, can you briefly touch on the results you’ve seen? If you are incorporating these tools in the upcoming year or are considering it for the future, what factors are you considering?
We incorporate technology in the classroom and look at it as another tool for the teacher to use when it is appropriate. We have interactive boards in all of our classrooms for both the teacher and our students to use. This is one manner in which a more visual learner can be successful.
We do not look at technology as the answer to education, rather we look at it as one of the tools a teacher has when needed. We also have computers and overhead projectors in our classrooms. We do not yet utilize iPads or laptops as a standard in the classrooms. We also are integrating wireless capability within our schools.
Over the last three to four years, Boyd ISD has upgraded the technology in our district to include interactive white boards and document cameras in almost every classroom. These tools have helped to increase student engagement in many ways. In addition, we are currently seeking alternative funding to help provide our students with individual devices that will reinforce the instruction in the classroom. We believe that engagement is paramount to student success and know that technology can be a valuable asset to students actively participating in their own learning.
Over the past year in BISD, we have seen a shift in learning. There is a new confidence from our high school students. With the deployment of the laptops our students feel that they now have access to the tools, information and communications necessary to help them be successful. Students know that they are important to us and that we value the work that they do. We have seen increased attendance and participation in school, as the tools are highly engaging and native to our learners today.
This year we will be conducting a 1:1 initiative with iPads for our other campuses. We want to embrace the power that technology has to offer. With these tools, we can virtually put all types of devices in the hands of our students – everything from a stopwatch to a recording studio.
Our staff will be partnering with a team of consultants from Abilene Christian University over the next three years to support our staff and ensure that our tools in technology are catalysts’ to learning skills that will prepare our graduates for their futures. We anticipate great results in the positive feedback from our students and parents, an increase in our attendance and graduation rate, and successful performance on state assessments over the next three to five years.
We have had technology in the classrooms for years; we have utilized computers and Internet capabilities as well as promethean boards and Elmo’s. We have also had a small number of iPads that are used with teachers and individual students. Next year we will have iPads for every teacher in every classroom.
All of our technology has increased student engagement and motivation for every student. Technology provides so much more than a textbook or a video; it is interactive and stimulates the brain. We also are able to teach the students in a manner that interests them, thereby more effectively engaging them.
Decatur ISD embraces technology at all levels. Decatur High School is beginning its third year of providing each student with a laptop for educational use throughout the year. This fall we will be providing an Apple iPad for students attending grades six through eight at McCarroll Middle School.
Decatur ISD does not consider the addition of technology as a singular solution for student success. The best results with technology we have seen in Decatur ISD is where great and innovative instruction occurs. Great instruction is student-centered and provides students the opportunity to excel beyond traditional expectations.
The world is changing in how we communicate, think and interact. This changes the way we teach and the way students learn. Decatur ISD is striving to provide student-centered instruction that is authentic and relevant to students, as well as teach students how to collaborate with others both in and out of the classroom. Technology is simply a powerful tool for students to use in an ever changing and advancing world. With rapid advances in technology, we are facing the end of the era of traditional textbooks. The connectedness of portable technology has provided a great opportunity to put very powerful tools into the hands of our students. Decatur ISD will continue to monitor the development of portable technologies for use with all students at all grade levels.
It is the Northwest ISD vision that our students will be future ready: ready for college, ready for the global workplace, and ready for personal success. Our profile of a Northwest ISD graduate specifically states that students will be able to employ proficient and responsible use of digital media to effectively communicate, synthesize, and create new knowledge, as well as determine validity and relevance of information resources in the development of research skills. In support of these goals, Northwest ISD students have access to technology at all grade levels. Students start developing technology applications and information literacy skills beginning in kindergarten. All elementary classrooms have three netbooks and access to additional netbook carts. All secondary students are issued a netbook at the beginning of each year. iPads were piloted at two elementary campuses in the spring.
Technology is a tool that facilitates student engagement, creativity and innovation. Students use technology to demonstrate high levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The key factor in considering technology for students is whether it is the best tool for learning and to prepare students for the future. In the classroom, the key factor in selecting technology is whether it is the best tool to support the learning objective.
Northwest ISD students are using technology to create authentic products and are publishing and sharing their work with authentic audiences beyond the classroom. One example is the district’s annual TechnoExpo student showcase. Students in grades K-12 demonstrate and discuss their products and the processes they used in creating their products to parents, teachers, administrators and community members.
Teaching and learning so students develop the skills for success is our primary goal.
Our grade Five students completed their second year with one-to-one iPads. One result seen is how quickly they learned to navigate and operate the device. Placing the iPads in their hands was connecting them in the classroom with what they already use out of the classroom. It is the way that they learn and the world we all now live in. Students were more excited to learn using the iPads. Teachers have been challenged to change the way instruction is delivered in an effort to maximize the benefit of the new technology. This is an ongoing process that we look forward to this coming year.
The grade six students also received iPads this year. Teachers found for many students having the tactical involvement with the iPad kept them focused and engaged. The loss and damages to the devices in both fifth and sixth grades were minimal.
In the upcoming school year, the iPad program will be expanded to include all grade levels fourth through eighth. Students at the elementary level will have access to approximately five iPads in each classroom. At the high school, teachers will have class sets of Macbook Airs for checkout and rotation into the classrooms.
The factors we are considering are support and instruction for the teachers (iPad training was held in August), communication with parents, processes for deployment of devices, security and safety of students, and procedures for inventories and licenses.
Our students today are living in a technology-rich environment. Our district is committed to incorporating technology in the classroom that enhances learning and prepares students for college and the workforce. We currently utilize student laptops, netbooks, tablets and traditional computer labs.