When Gilbert Unified School District decided to test the idea of allowing students to bring their own technology to school, Carol Rae Ranch Elementary School principal Geane Flournoy said she just had to volunteer her campus.
“As soon as I heard about it, I was all over it. I think we have to learn to embrace it,” she said.
The students are already using the technology at home – and will no doubt use it in their future schooling and careers — so why not get them started?
Carol Rae — along with a handful of other Gilbert schools — will start allowing students to bring their own iPads, iPhones, tablets and ereaders to class this semester, with the idea that this test run will work out any issues and concerns of parents and teachers. Should it work, it could be opened to other schools.
Flournoy points out that students already use computers in the classroom (via the school’s traveling computer lab), but they’re limited because of the number of computers available.
Using their own technology, students may be able to access books through ereaders for the school’s Accelerated Reader program (students read books and then take quizzes to test their comprehension). When the teacher assigns a paper, students could easily start research in class using their iTouch or laptop.
The students will access the Internet through the district’s firewall. Parents are excited about the idea, Flournoy said, adding she receives calls or emails daily about it. The school will be one of the first in the East Valley to give the “bring your own technology” idea a try. It’s a way to bring elements of “blended learning” — the combination of teacher-led curriculum with the Internet’s plethora of information and academic programs — into the classroom.
“In the past, the kids went to the library and pulled out an encyclopedia. Here, they can just look it up in an instant. Facts will be more up-to-date. They can do all sorts of things,” she said.
Carol Rae Ranch sits in the community it was named after in the northeastern part of Gilbert. The school opened in 2000, after the then-emerging neighborhood battled with the community developer to bring in a district school rather than a charter school.
Twelve years later, there’s a history and tradition building at the school. Flags that show the school’s “excelling” status for the last seven years hang proudly in one hall. To go along with this year’s Olympics, another wall display shows the “medal count” for the amount of reading each class has done so far.
During their homeroom, the fourth-graders walk the halls with blue recycle bins to gather the paper and plastic bottles from the classrooms — a chance to learn about environmentalism and perform a school service project.
This year, children just a bit too young for kindergarten can enroll in “Kindercamp” at the school, a full-day program designed to prepare them for next year.
Students move quickly — but orderly — from class to class. Every inch seems to be busy with activity, from the gifted students working on projects using Macs to the younger kids using hula hoops for physical education in the multipurpose room.
Flournoy hopes the pilot “bring your own technology” program will add another layer of excitement to the already busy school. She also points out that to be successful, she’s seeking donations of gently used devices children can use if they don’t have something that can be brought from home.
“We’ll be merging into it,” Flournoy said during a recent visit by the Tribune. “We’ll be able to use it in all areas ... There are so many educational apps. We may as well make the most of it for our own kids. They’re loving it. They’re using it.”
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