Thanks to a grant from the US State Department, every student at Kent County Middle School now has an iPod Touch. The iPods are to be used so that teachers can communicate work assignments and instructions to students across the internet (with filters) and so that students can interact with teachers and submit work.
All classrooms have Promethean interactive whiteboards, which greatly increase interaction and engagement, explains John Voshell, principal of Kent County Middle School. Whiteboards are connected to projectors and kids can manipulate things on the board. Kids also can answer questions and immediately send their responses to the classroom board via the Touch. The result, says Voshell, is improved responses and greater attention. Last year, Voshell watched kids respond during a pilot program at Galena Middle School that put 40 iPod Touches in the classroom. He was struck by the engagement of students who were of the “you cannot make me write” mindset.
When students enter responses using the iPod, the information projects immediately on the Promethean board. The ultimate objective is to bridge the technology gap between students whose access to is unlimited and those with limited or no access. Currently, the devices are in use only in the classroom.
The school also needs to work out logistics for releasing devices to the students, who can easily lose or damage them. Voshell visited other schools, looking for models that deal effectively with those issues.
When asked about the recent Duke University study that shows that computer and other technology access often degenerates into game playing and lowering reading and math scores, Voshell acknowledged there is good technology use and bad. Parent input and oversight is also key, though for parents unfamiliar with technology, it can be a more time-consuming learning curve. The grant, which was specifically for technology, also paid for a wireless Airport upgrade to the middle school building.