District puts technology in every student’s hands, even the littlest ones

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Alicia Emmick helps sophomore Austin Thompson use the Quizlet app in her human and cultural geography class while they prepare for final exams at Frederick Fraize High School (Cloverport Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, May 10, 2013
Alicia Emmick helps sophomore Austin Thompson use the Quizlet app in her human and cultural geography class while they prepare for final exams at Frederick Fraize High School (Cloverport Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, May 10, 2013

By Susan Riddell
susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

A lot of Kentucky districts have 1:1 device initiatives. Some use laptops, iPads or other devices. Some target schools while others cover a majority of the grade levels.

Cloverport Independent school district recently went as far as it could go with its 1:1 initiative: It put a device in the hands of every student, all the way from preschool to 12th grade.

Cloverport’s 1:1 effort started out two years ago with the leadership team receiving iPads, and soon after 50 teachers received them, too. By spring 2012, all students in grades 5-12 (approximately 240) were using their own iPad2, with all teachers also receiving the upgrade.

Students in grades 1-4 each have an iPad Mini, and earlier this year, preschool and kindergarten students received iPods.

“What we have observed is quite revolutionary,” said Sheri Merrifield, director of student support services and interventions for the Cloverport Independent Schools. “Students are not only increasingly engaged with instruction, the instructional program has increased in rigor, student-teacher feedback is happening continuously, and instructional techniques have grown even more effective.

Merrifield said the district saw the importance of giving Pre-K and kindergarten students the devices because it knew the appropriate apps were out there, and it personalized their learning.

“Our youngest learners are complete digital natives,” she said. “They interact with technology easily and naturally; they are unafraid of trying new things and are easily excited by content available on their devices.

“It has also been transformative because these young learners are able to produce evidence of their own learning using simple apps available,” Merrifield added. “They can take photos, make movies, complete tasks that would have been more difficult for them using a mouse and a traditional computer. They are producers of their own learning.”

Merrifield knew that when the district initially enacted its 1:1 initiative the impact on students would be early and often. She and the rest of the district leadership team picked up on a strong change in teachers, too.

“Teachers were not only using the devices to increase their personal efficiency, but also to bring global resources to their students and to increase student engagement,” Merrifield said.

“In particular, teachers are using tools such as TodaysMeet, Edmodo and Socrative to interact with students, disseminate class information and homework, assess students and gain immediate results, as well as monitor student participation in classroom activities,” Merrifield added

John Millay, who will take over as Meade County school district Superintendent on July 1, has held the same position in Cloverport since 2008. He said when pushing the device initiative forward, the Board of Education set specific district goals for expanding technology and implementation.

One of those goals was a continual implementation of technology initiatives with student benefit in mind. Another key goal was that all teachers were provided with professional development opportunities that allowed for better instructional practices and stronger infrastructure to maintain consistent and safe use of the devices, Merrifeild said.

Throughout the process, the board prioritized funding for the devices.

“The majority of the funding for this initiative has been district general funds with a smaller percentage coming from grants and fundraising at the school level,” Millay said. “Specific funding priorities were established by the board, and we remained committed to those intentions.”

While teachers embraced the 1:1, so did the students, probably none more so than the preschoolers and kindergarten students.

“My students love learning from their iPods,” William H. Natcher Elementary School preschooler teacher Kristina Seibert said. “The students enjoy the technology so much that they enjoy the learning process more.”

Seibert said her students were never inhibited by the iPods, and they grabbed at them right away when they were handed out back in March.

She said it takes intentional planning to make sure students have access to the best apps to maximize learning.

During April, Seibert used several apps that were free for the month. Those apps helped students learn about similarities, differences and categorizing objects.

Since the younger students don’t take iPods home, Seibert’s students get free time on the iPods the last five minutes of class to use a teacher-approved app of their choice.

Endless Alphabet is a popular one for free choice time,” Seibert said, noting the children love the graphics. “It helps them in both letter recognition and letter sound identification.”

Frederick Fraize High School social studies teacher Alicia Emmick said she’s always been passionate about using technology in the classroom because of the real world mindset her iPads bring to her classroom.

“It is difficult for me to pinpoint just one way this initiative has changed my classroom,” she said. “To be honest, everything has changed.”

Emmick said her classroom has notably less paper since she’s doing everything electronically now. This has kept her away from a copy machine and freed up more time for her to work on planning and assessment. Like her, students are more organized and prepared for her class. Their note taking is noticeably better, she said.

“I have watched them grow into real researchers,” Emmick said. “The iPads have enabled me to become a facilitator in my classroom rather than a ‘source for information.’”

Merrifield said she’s witnessed students having a stronger voice in terms of classroom instruction. There also are more demands for higher order thinking, using analytical skills and sharing ideas with others, Merrifield said.

“Students are also receiving rapid, personalized feedback about the quality of their work from teachers,” she said. “Instructional staff members are holding spoken conferences with students using voice recording software, annotating student work using UPAD and working collaboratively with students on projects using a variety of instructional apps and web-based services.”

Emmick also has flipped her classroom with the help of the devices.

“I can’t wait to see how my classroom and curriculum will continue to evolve,” she said.

One of the reasons that evolution will have to happen, Emmick said, is because of the 1:1 initiative reaching all the way down to the preschool level. Several Cloverport teachers in the middle and high school grades already have had discussions about the impact that will have on their classrooms and practices once those technology savvy preschoolers reach their classrooms.

“Honestly, I’m excited to see how advanced the younger kids will be as they enter middle/high school,” Emmick said. “I have no doubts that they will continue to teach us about technology, and together we will use that technology to teach content.”

This initiative also has sparked changes in homes of students, Merrifield said.

“There is increased feedback between school and home as well as greater involvement in learning coming from home,” she said, noting that the devices give parents another means of communicating with teachers more frequently and easier access to what happens in the classrooms each day.

District leaders and teachers are continuously looking to stay on top of the latest apps and other resources in an effort to keep improving on a regular basis. Cloverport Independent also is pursuing status as a District of Innovation to increase course and virtual opportunities as well as increase access to highly qualified teachers, Merrifield said.

“We seek to lead the way in being innovative with our instructional devices,” she said.

MORE INFO…
Sheri Merrifield, sheri.merrifield@cloverport.kyschools.us, (270) 788-3910
Alicia Emmick, alicia.emmick@cloverport.kyschools.us, (270) 788-3388
Kristina Seibert, Kristina.seibert@education.ky.gov, (270) 788-3388

 

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