For students at Harvey-Swanson Elementary in Brandon Schools, the future is now. The old adage "if you cannot beat them, join them," certainly applies as kindergarteners are bringing cell phones to school and instead of it being a problem, the I-Pads that were given because of a grant from the Michigan Department of Education has turned a prior problem into a cutting edge solution. The I-Pads go well beyond playing coolmathgames.com and typingweb.com. Students are solving real world problems and are posting You-Tube videos on their favorite books using QR codes. As a guest teacher in West Bloomfield recently, students using I-Pads rotated among several learning stations in one first grade classroom and I can tell you the students were extremely engaged. The following story shows how Harvey-Swanson Elementary is working with the technology.
Brandon’s Harvey-Swanson Elementary receives iPads for every student with state grant
The school is the recipient of funds from a Michigan Department of Education program that aims for a 1-1 learning ratio, with access to technology at both school and home.
Principal Andrew Phillips said that he’s noticed that at kindergarten orientation, many preschoolers are using their parent’s cell phones.
“We can either embrace that and use it to speed up learning, or stick with what we’ve done before (mobile) devices were so popular.”
Student engagement can be improved with the use of mobile devices, Phillips said, explaining that students can “mirror” the work done on an iPads by showing it on a monitor at the front of a classroom.
“A kid is more likely to play a math game longer than they’ll work on a worksheet.”
Harvey-Swanson Elementary is the only school in Oakland County that’s been selected to receive tablet computers as part of the program, administered by the Genesee Intermediate School District.
Part of what’s known as the Whole School Technology Transformation pilot program will include an upgrade of the school’s Wi-Fi network.
In kindergarten teacher Jessica Hevel’s classroom, students are already using some tablet computers the school previously received using federal grant funds. Hevel, who’s a Brandon High School graduate herself, said students are excited to work on iPads.
“I think it gets the student better prepared for what they’re going to be doing in the future,” she said, as several kindergartners worked on iPads at a nearby table.
Hevel said she’s able to adjust each device to a student’s learning level: “It’s so much easier to differentiate instruction.”
In a hallway near Hevel’s classroom, the March is Reading Month posters include QR codes that can be scanned with a mobile device to access YouTube videos students have made about their favorite books.
Harvey-Swanson has a schoolwide festival each May, and this year’s will be the Festival of Technology.
With about 450 iPads coming to the school this year, the existing devices at Harvey-Swanson will be shared with the district’s other K-3 school, Oakwood Elementary. That will bring all of the district’s elementary students close to a 1-to-1 learning ratio, Phillips said.
Third grade teacher Bob Larson said another element of using mobile devices in class is teaching students about digital citizenship: How to stay safe online and communicate with each other using social media and other tools.
The arrival of tablet computers in every classroom means added training is needed for teachers is needed, Phillips said. “As excited as we are about (this), it’s going to be a lot of work.”
Since students will take the iPads home, Phillips said the program will benefit entire families and give parents a chance to learn, too.
“Parent newsletters won’t be on paper anymore. They’ll be on some kind of appropriate social media network.”
While he’s excited by the news of the coming technology, the elementary principal said the true payoff will come after the next year of instruction.
“What I can’t wait for are the congratulations when the year is up and they see what we’ve done with them.”