When the 2013-14 school year starts, teachers in the Clinton Public School District will face something new.
"They're going to walk into a room where every student has an iPad or laptop on their desk," said Dr. Kameron Ball, CPSD Technology director. "We want to make sure our teachers are prepared and ready for this change."
As part of the 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative, CPSD is providing MacBook Air laptops (and protective backpacks) to all students in grades 6-12; iPads to all students in grades 3-5; and iPad Minis to all students in grades K-2. The iPads and iPad Minis will stay at school, and 7-12 grade students will be allowed to take their MacBook Air laptops home. Sixth grade will be a transition year and students will be able to take their laptops home based on instruction, for selected assignments and projects.
"This fall, we will be the only public school district in Mississippi to provide Apple devices for all students," said Tim Martin, assistant superintendent.
It's a massive undertaking that CPSD has spent the past two years preparing for, Ball said.
"We have increased the bandwidth into our schools and added WiFi hot-spots in every classroom," she said. "We are working now to make sure we have enough tech support in our schools, both for our students and our teachers."
And of course, teachers are critical to the 1:1 initiative. Faculty members were given new MacBook Pro laptops in the fall of 2012, and training has been ongoing this school year.
A day-long technology symposium was held for teachers in January, with courses on specific software (including iMovie and iPhoto), engaging apps and software for classroom use, and the basics of using a Mac computer.
Throughout the spring semester, Ball has held training sessions at schools and met with teachers individually and in small groups.
"This is an exciting initiative, and we want to make sure teachers have the resources they need to make this transition smoothly," Ball said.
After school dismissed at Eastside Elementary on Thursday, Ball met with a group of fourth- and fifth-grade teachers for a session on using iBook Author to create digital textbooks.
"This app makes it easy to create e-books for your students," Ball said. "You can create them on your MacBook and push them out to all your students on their iPads."
Because it's in digital format, she said, the books could include multimedia content such as photo galleries, videos, 3D models, interactive quizzes and more advanced elements. Ball said teachers would also be able to lock out certain apps during class time, so students won't be playing games on the devices during instructional time.
Eastside teacher Kerri Burnside said the ability to create digital textbooks is very beneficial.
"It allows us to re-write some units that need to be updated in our current textbooks," she said. "We can work on it in our PLC (professional learning community) groups, and bounce ideas off each other."
Eastside Principal Cindy Hamil agreed. Hamil said she's been using her Mac software to create iMovies for faculty meetings and other things.
"The students are ecstatic about getting their iPads next year," Hamil said. "There is excitement in the air. I'm encouraging teachers to play with this software so they can familiarize themselves with it, and over the summer they'll be preparing lesson plans that integrate some of these apps and project ideas."
Teachers are not expected to go digital with every lesson, Ball said.
"We know that there are essays to write with a pencil and paper and math problems that students need to work out on paper," she said. "That isn't going to change. This first year with student computers will be a transition year, and teachers are continually developing digital resources."
Dr. Phil Burchfield, CPSD superintendent, said CPSD is modeling the 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative after a similar — and very successful — technology initiative in Mooresville, N.C.
"We are already one of the highest-achieving school districts in Mississippi," he said. "We believe that immersing classroom instruction with this technology will allow us to achieve at an even higher level."
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