LAKEWOOD RANCH — As eighth-grade student Javaire Perry sits in Carrie Rainwater’s science class, he pulls out his iPod and begins navigating the screen.
Rainwater doesn’t flinch. Technology is welcome in this classroom at Nolan Middle School.
Nolan is piloting a new program that encourages the use of technology in the classroom. Part of a national movement, the Bring Your Own Device program allows students to record homework, research for assignments and complete other tasks on their mobile devices, while in the classroom.
“We want the inside of our school to mirror what they are experiencing (on the outside),” Rainwater said.
Assistant Principal Tamara Cornwell agreed.
“We need to get on board with this,” she said. “We need to get into the 21st century with education. It’s a great way to keep up with technology.
“The cost saving (from having students use devices they already have) is wonderful, and this is these students’ lives,” she added.
Rainwater and two other teachers at Nolan attended a national science conference Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, in Atlanta, where they learned about the BYOD concept. Nolan already was working on a plan to utilize more technology in the classroom, so when the teachers came back excited about the new idea, administrators threw their support behind them.
Next year, the school will launch a new technology-focused academy called Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, or eSTEAM. At that time, it also will go textbook-less in two classrooms and open an Internet café.
The BYOD concept blended perfectly.
“It’s kind of been a perfect storm,” Rainwater said. “It gives us the ability to have more technology in the classroom.”
In January, Nolan secured a guest wireless network, filtered by the Manatee County Public School District, for student use. Javaire, the first student to test the new program on campus, began using an iPod the school supplied to record his homework assignments, practice vocabulary and perform other school-related tasks.
Rainwater and fellow teacher Kristen Cunningham piloted the BYOD concept in their classrooms, and Nolan launched the program school-wide March 1.
“Any teacher who is willing can make their class a phone zone,” Rainwater said.
Students who wish to use their smartphones, iPods or other devices in class, and their parents sign a digital citizenship contract with the school. Those students then are able to use those devices in the classroom setting. Teachers participating in the program have stickers in their classroom noting cell phones and other technologies are allowed. Teachers implementing BYOD can close the option, as needed, for tests or other reasons, as well.
Students can use and share applications, such as Remind101, Quizlet, Modo and others to record homework assignments, review study material and more.
Javaire, who has always had an interest in technology and wants to take technology classes in high school, said he’s enjoyed using the program, particularly for remembering homework assignments and practicing vocabulary.
He noted for students, like himself, who do not own smartphones, the school lends out iPods for use; it also has an iPad cart on campus.
“It’s made it a lot easier (to keep up with my schoolwork),” Javaire said. “It’s definitely a lot easier. The computer at my home doesn’t work well. This is a lot faster.”
Rainwater said students already are using technology to collaborate in new ways. For example, one student was home sick, but was able to use text messaging and Facebook to collaborate with their student partner on a project during class.
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