ELYRIA — The signals from 15 different wireless access points strategically placed around Ely Elementary School served as invisible tethers Thursday morning tying dozens of fifth-graders to a world of information, which they were happy to display to parents and show off just what a “Bring Your Own Device” program can do for public schools.
Kindle Fires, iPads, iPods, Nooks, laptops and even Nintendo DSes were the stars of the demonstration at the program being piloted at Ely this year to give district officials an idea of how it will work when it is rolled out to all schools next year.
“It’s not like we’re saying we have some technology, let’s design some curriculum so we can use it,” said Ann Schloss, the district’s academic services director. “It’s ‘This is our curriculum so what technology can we use to teach this so kids are more engaged and absorb the material?’ ”
Eleven-year-old Jordan McCants knows he sees technology in a way his grandparents and even parents never did in relation to how it’s used in his life. He spends at least two to three hours a day swiping his tablet and clicking on anything and everything from his father’s iPad to his Nintendo DS.
It seems natural to use technology to conquer math problems or write a language arts journal entry.
“It’s pretty cool we get to learn on these,” he said. “We don’t have to stare at the board or a piece of paper all day.”
Ely Principal Jack Dibee said it’s definitely a new twist to teaching the same material, but it’s the logical next step.
“These are kids who live in the 21st century, and to think we can teach them the way we were taught without incorporating the technology they live and breathe is not reasonable,” he said.
When Charles Rudd came to Elyria Schools 10 years ago after almost two decades in business, he came from an industry that was heavily technology-based. He naturally chose to use those skills to help fellow teachers incorporate Smart Boards, an interactive whiteboard that can be used with a touch from a finger, pen or other solid object, in the classrooms. He even wrote an accompanying Smart Board computer program for a reading program called Wilson Fundations.
Rudd is now the district’s technology implementation specialist. He envisions the use of innovative learning techniques that will continue to blossom from the “Bring Your Own Device” program. Technology gives students the chance to learn without the constraints of textbooks and classrooms, he said.
“It does make learning fun,” said Naihome Molina, 11. “I don’t have to write a paper on paper, and we can learn new things we can do at home, too.”
Not to mention that the new common core standards will favor online assessments instead of traditional standardized bubble-sheet tests.
“The world of education is going there. It’s constantly changing and evolving, and there is no reason why we as a public school district are not traveling down that road,” Rudd said. “When all of us leave our homes, we take our devices with us and can’t imagine our days without them. It’s our connection to the world and an encyclopedia right in the palm of our hands.”
Brian Kokai, information technology services director, said Ely Elementary, where enrollment is about 460 children, is equipped to handle up to 450 devices at a time.
Ely Elementary and Elyria High schools are the only school buildings with wireless access points installed.
On Wednesday, the school board approved a plan to spend $60,000 to expand WiFi to more elementary and middle schools.
“I don’t think there is anything we are not doing in terms of technology integration,” he said. “Teachers have often asked for more devices and that is where BYOD is going.”
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