Students and teachers reap rewards from tablet implementation

Amelia Holliday — Staff Reporter

December 18, 2013

HAZARD—Students and teachers in the Perry County School District spoke out about the walls being broken down in their classroom since the implementation of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative and the roll out of tablets to every eighth through 12th grader in the district at the “Perry County Tablet Celebration” on Monday.

State Senator Brandon Smith, a Perry County native, was in attendance at the celebration, which was held at the Perry County Central library.

“This is a measured level of success and on behalf of the state Senate and the state as a whole, my only role here today is to let you all know that what you’ve done has gotten attention statewide,” Smith said. “To reach like you all have done with your leadership here … says a tremendous amount about us and our district, and this school.”

Though the devices have only been in classrooms for about two months, East Perry eighth grade reading and science teacher Misty McAlarnis said it is already astonishing what has been made possible with the tablets in the classroom.

“I’ve had kids miss school that day and send an email from home with their tablet saying I’m sorry, I missed school, I was sick today, can you send me my homework,” she said. “They’re emailing me and they’re worried about their work while they’re sick at home. That’s a step in the right direction.”

Devina Baker, a high school science teacher at Perry Central, explained that the tablets were just what she needed in the different classes she teaches and they have opened doors that were not even possibilities prior to the initiative.

“My sophomores love their tablets,” Baker said. “I had a student message me the other day, she was up in Ohio at a funeral, ‘I don’t know how to do Advanced Mendelian Crosses, can we Skype about it?’ So here we are in class, she literally Skyped during class … and she watches me teach class from Ohio.”

Baker said she uses the tablets in a variety of ways in her classroom, explaining that instead of taking up valuable class time going to the computer lab to take standardized assessments, like Discovery Ed, her students can now simply pull out their tablets, finish the tests in 20 minutes, and move on to the next activity.

“They loved it,” she said. “It was seamless, no delays whatsoever.”

Mike Smith, Perry County district technology coordinator, was integral in ensuring everything went smoothly during the BYOD roll out this school year. He said though there are some kinks to be worked out in the system, such as bandwidth issues and ensuring that every student will be able to take the tablets home with them, the tablets are catching on more quickly and doing more than he had hoped for teachers and students.

“The work can go on without the personnel and that’s really going to help us going forward, with the way we do things, it’s really going to help,” he said.

Smith said earlier in the process of the BYOD implementation that teachers would be receiving training after the devices had been given out to every student. This seems to have become another positive in the process as many students have been given the opportunity to flex their technology muscles outside of the classroom by helping other students and teachers with their tablets.

Paula Boggs, technology teacher at Buckhorn High School, said she was overwhelmed with the amount of students and teachers asking her for assistance when the devices were first given to students.

“Integrating technology wasn’t an issue for me. I knew how we would use tablets. My biggest issue was how am I going to manage these,” Boggs said, adding that the first day students had their tablets there were over 40 students in her room between first and second period asking for help.

“We ended up, my advanced computer kids … who’ve had me for four years, they kind of just took over for me,” she said.

Now, following the student-driven teaching model, students at the high school like Timothy Baker are training both teachers and students on how to best use the tablets, and will be using this as their STLP project this year.

“As opposed to teachers teaching students, we actually have the students that are teaching the teachers. This way teachers are going to be able to give their students more individualized learning,” Baker said.

So far, Baker said he and Buckhorn’s STLP group have gone to three schools in the district — Willard, Viper, and Chavies — to help teachers find resources and apps they can use to best utilize the tablets teaching potential.

“Students are not interested anymore when you say get out your paper and pencil, let’s take notes, they are concerned about computer screens,” Baker said. “So, this has pretty much opened up new doors.”