At Brier Creek Elementary School, students used to keep their personal e-readers and tablets tucked away. Teachers only wanted to see the devices out as part of special activities or as a reward for work well done.
Now, as part of a “bring your own device” pilot program in Wake County schools, students are encouraged to bring their Nooks, iPads or other devices to class as part of their daily studies.
Brier Creek is one of 13 Wake schools – five elementary, three middle and five high schools – participating in the pilot.
On Monday, Wake highlighted how students are using their devices in first-grade and fifth-grade classrooms at Brier Creek. About half of the school’s 40 classroom teachers implemented the program this month, and the rest will join them in January.
Administrators are watching how schools in the pilot deal with issues such as ensuring equity for students who don’t have a device to bring and dealing with the variety of devices students bring.
Almost all of the schools in the pilot have relatively low percentages of students who receive free or reduced-price lunches, a measure of family income.
In a fifth-grade math class at Brier Creek, students worked in small groups Monday to create a video that would illustrate a mathematical concept for their classmates.
Their teacher, Anna Hayes, said a handful of her 45 students haven’t brought in a device. That’s worked out fine, because she wants the activities students do on the devices to be collaborative. When each student does need his or her own, she makes use of the school’s technology.
“As you learn who has what device, you figure out how to pair them,” she said.
Hayes also seeks out activities that can be done with a variety of devices, so students don’t have to have a particular brand or a specific program loaded.
In Hayes’ classroom on Monday, 10-year-olds Benjamin Monce, Aaliyah Ngam and Lizzie Carson clustered around a Nook and an iPad in search of the best way to show how to multiply a decimal by a whole number.
They wrote out possible word problems they could ask their classmates to solve on a Nook, then moved to a video program on the iPad that let them circle key words and show step by step how to solve their equation.
They said they feel more engaged and that sharing devices has been easy. Plus, it’s fun, they said.
“It makes school kind of cooler,” Aaliyah said.
Hayes said the biggest change in her classroom is the frequency students are using devices.
“Instead of using devices just when they have a project, they use them all the time,” she said.
Marlo Gaddis, senior director of instructional technology and library media services, said there’s no one-size-fits-all way for schools to run their “bring your own device” program.
“Each school is going to have a different flavor for how they roll this out,” she said.