Grant brings iPods into the classroom

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Harrison County school system receives over $67,000 for technology purchases

By Kate Darnell

Many Harrison County students already own an iPod.

The technological device used by students for fun will soon find a place of its own in the classroom.

“We’re bringing 21st century tools into the classroom,” said Harrison County Schools’ Chief Information Officer Melissa Shepard.

The recipient of a  $67,824 technology grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the school system will purchase 70 iPod touches and 17 Macbook laptops to be used at the Harrison County Middle School.

“This is going to allow our students to use at school what they already use at home,” Shepard said.

The Harrison County school district was one of 73 districts in the state of Kentucky to receive the technology grant.

“Eligibility was limited to specific districts based on poverty factors using the 2007 Census Data,” Shepard said. “District eligibility was based on percent and numbers of children ages 5-17 in poverty and the substantial need for assistance for acquiring and using technology.”

Before applying, Shepard said the school system had to have a plan in place for implementing technology into the classroom.

“The competitive grant’s focus was on the 21st century learning environment and to assist schools that are ready to embrace a change that is required in today’s classrooms,” Shepard said.

Shepard said the purchased iPods and Macbooks will be put on rolling wireless carts, allowing all HCMS teachers to use the devices in their different classrooms.

Shepard said focus on the middle school is part of the school system’s plan for all students to be technologically literate by the end of their eighth grade year.

“The kids are going to love it,” Shepard said.

HCMS librarian Patsy Graham said downloaded iPod applications will help students learn concepts from the classroom.

“Every subject area will be able to find a use for the iPods in their class,” Graham said. “To me, it is like bringing the world to our school with the touch of a finger!”

Graham said wireless hot spots around the school will allow students to access the internet from the iPod at different places in the building.

Incorporating technology into the curriculum, Graham said, is essential.

“I won’t be surprised if the students don’t teach us some things instead of the other way around,” she said. “Our students are becoming so tech savvy that if we, as teachers, don’t get on board, we will be left at the dock.”

Shepard said a group of HCMS teachers will receive training for the iPod and Macbook from Apple instructors later this semester.

“Then they will teach the other teachers in the district,” Shepard said.

Shepard said some teachers have already started using iPods in the classroom.

“Right now my students are listening to a novel on a classroom iPod while following along with a novel,” said HCMS teacher Amanda Caudill. “If each student had their own  iPod, with a novel of their choice and level downloaded to their iPod,  I could individualize their instruction more easily.”

Caudill said she has no hesitations about the iPods entering her classroom.

“There is absolutely no way I can be an effective teacher without technology,” she said. “In a world of video games, imagine me trying to keep my students’ attention with no computers or current technology.”

HCMS teacher, Alyssa Canupp, said she plans for her students to use the iPods to take quizzes and answer problems.

Another HCMS teacher, John McEwan, said his social studies students will use the iPods as small computers, looking up research on the internet.

Shepard said other opportunities with the technology include collecting data, using eBooks, performing graphing calculator activities, improving math and reading fluency, creating podcasts, using Skype, iMovie (creating movies) and Garageband (creating original music to incorporate into podcasting) and assembling multimedia presentations.

With so many possibilities and applications, Graham said students will have to be closely monitored when using the devices.

“We are going to have to be very alert as to what the students are accessing,” she said.

Shepard said additional iPod and Macbook carts will be purchased as money allows.

“Our kids want hands-on technology,” she said. “The integration happens when the students are actually using the technology and driving their own learning...”

Shepard said she hopes students will begin to view the iPod not only as a cool gadget, but also as an educational tool.

“They’re not just a toy,” she said about the iPods. “They’re a great educational tool.”

Shepard said the grant money will also be used to purchase additional document cameras, wireless slates, projectors and networking equipment.

The iPod and Macbook carts are expected to be ready for use at the middle school by April.