Kingsport schools' technology plan embraces wireless devices

Rick Wagner • Sep 20, 2012 at 11:26 AM

KINGSPORT — In the future, every Kingsport school teacher and student will use a wireless device in the classroom.

And that future is already here for some.

The Kingsport school system Thursday night released a five-year technology plan that is to include a Bring Your Own Device program and Web-enhanced classes, also known as e-learning.

And the Kingsport Board of Education at its work session got a glimpse of what the plan might look like through iPad presentations by four teachers — two middle school and two high school — a video from a Dobyns-Bennett High School German class, and presentations by Director of Technology John Payne and e-learning specialist Jeff Burleson.

Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said the vision — to be followed with an implementation plan — is a leap forward in the use of instructional technology through wireless devices, including iPads, that will “enable, engage and empower our students to reach new levels of achievement.”

A 12-member technology committee headed by Payne looked at BYOD, e-learning and flipped classes and chose the first two, although Payne said flipped classes — in which students view a video lecture at home and use classroom time for special projects and to get one-on-one assistance — may be implemented later as part of e-learning.

Payne said the group chose the path after looking at what other systems have been doing and seeing what the best practices are.

A systemwide wireless system is to be in place by the end of the year, setting the stage for the technology vision to become a reality.

The wireless system will allow the expanded use of electronic textbooks, mobile devices and various online learning tools.

Payne said a Monday phone and online survey of 1,769 city system parents found that 89.1 percent of students had Internet access at home, 56.9 percent had cell phones, 33.1 percent had smart phones, and 57.2 percent had another wireless device.

What’s more, 60.6 percent of parents said they would allow a student to bring a wireless device to school if it was allowed to be used for academics, while 17.6 percent said no, and 21.8 percent don’t have a device. In addition, 38.2 percent reported having an iPad or iPod, 5.8 percent an Android, 15.4 percent other devices, and 39.6 percent no wireless device.

Asked if they would purchase a device if it was allowed to be used for academic work at school, 44.9 percent said yes, 22.7 percent said no, and 32.4 percent said the student already had a device.

At D-B, chemistry teacher Natalie Pickett said she and the students have had a “huge learning curve” since starting to use iPads four weeks ago.

Students take home the school-issued devices, which Payne said are filtered no matter what Internet access is used. Students use drop boxes to pick up and turn in assignments, doing away with most paper except for tests.

“They pull out their iPads and get down to work,” Pickett said of students who also can access an online textbook with the devices.

D-B Project Lead the Way teacher Angela Conrad said wireless has worked well in her classes, too, allowing her to go paperless except for tests and letting students make an e-portfolio, basically an online résumé.

She uses free software from Edvance 360.

A video Payne showed was of students in one of Jana Engle’s German classes at D-B, and among other things it showed students looking up translations on wireless devices.

Laurie Norris at Robinson Middle School said she gives students QR codes that take them to her Web site, where their art and photography are displayed along with photos of the students using the wireless technology, including a virtual field trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Students also used a free NASA app called Spacecraft 3D that shows a virtual rover like Curiosity that is sending to Earth images from the surface of Mars.

Christi Creech, a math teacher at Robinson, said students used iPads to take photos of slopes for algebra, and all but five students provided their own devices.

Burleson said e-learning is here to stay and can serve gifted and advanced students as well as help at-risk students make up credit and let teachers work smarter, not harder. Online learning courses are being developed at D-B for art history, bridge math, contemporary issues, economics, geometry, personal finance and U.S. history, Burleson said.

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