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Devices enhance classroom tools

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Students in Kathy Denniston’s fifth-grade class were scattered throughout all corners of the classroom Thursday morning.

Some were reading books checked out from the library; others were creating Prezi presentations using Samsung Chromebooks checked out from the school. And a few were researching the U.S. Constitution on their own Kindles or tablets.

Fifth- and sixth-grade classes at Lillian C. Schmitt Elementary have looked like this since winter break, when the school chose to pilot a Bring Your Own Device policy.

Principal Brett Boezeman said about half the students are bringing their own devices, such as laptops, tablets, Kindles and iPod Touches.

“It pushes them to become independent learners and problem-solve on their own,” he said.

Medline Malcolm brings her purple Microsoft Surface tablet every day.

“It’s a bit faster than the school computers,” she said. “It’s good to use it to look up stuff.”

She was using KidBiz3000, a collection of articles designed for students at specific grade levels.

But Boezeman said students who cannot or do not bring their own computers are not left out.

The school has plenty of carts of Chromebooks and desktop computers.

Thessie Johnson opted to use a Chromebook from the school. She said it’s fast enough for what she’s doing, and she’s not as nervous.

“I’m afraid I’d drop mine if I brought it in,” she said.

Taylor Mathers’ family had the same concern and does not allow her to bring in her own computer, but she said she doesn’t mind.

She was using the computer to study note cards about the U.S. government.

All students still had traditional books within arm’s reach.

Taylor said sometimes the books are more helpful, and Luke Bless said he keeps a backup in case his Kindle Fire battery dies.

Boezeman said he’s happy with how quickly the program took off — and the school’s location next to the Information Services Center helps with that.

“We have the technology folks right in our backyard

if there’s ever a problem,” he said.

But Denniston, who often tells her class, “Technology is not my friend today,” has not had to call on technology support for help.

“I can always ask the kids,” she said.

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