Mason technology upgrades mean new learning experiences

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By Michelle Paetow
Mason Times staff writer

Mason High School juniors, Chris Karcher (back) and William Wilson (front) use the Kindles in their English class.

Mason Public Schools has upgraded technology to make learning more fun and efficient for students and teachers.

Mason Public Schools used about $25,000 of Title 1A grant money, a federal grant for at-risk students, Title 2A grant money, used for professional development and technology, and MTIP money specifically for the Mason Technology Infusion Plan for the upgrades in technology.

Originally, the technology plan was created so each class room would be a smart classroom with a document camera, data projector and a SMART board. As technology has changed, so have the guidelines for the money. Teachers in the elementary schools will be receiving iPads for the classroom.

Bruce Barbour, executive director of curriculum, said, “It’s very exciting technology. Instead of the student going up to the SMART board, they are able to manipulate the problem or equation on the iPad that comes to them,” said Barbour. “We have had positive feedback from the teachers thanking us for the new technology, but it is too early to see if they are really getting use from them.I absolutely believe that in the next five to years, that we will be reading textbooks from a device. That is the future of education. Kids’ smart phones are now better than the computers sitting on the teachers desks.”

There are now 70 iPads in the district, 140 iPod Touches, an AppleTV in each building and a few for individual teachers. Some products are owned by the district but can be checked out by any teacher. Because of the fast change in technology, Mason Public Schools is piloting a program that allows students at Mason High School in a senior math and a senior English course to bring their own technology from home. They are able to connect to the Internet using the newly installed Wi-Fi.

Other upgrades include the Success Maker Program in the elementary schools, new flat-panel computer screens for two elementary schools and increased memory in all the computers.The plan is run by the Mason Schools foundation, which has committed $30,000  to the district each year. This is its fourth year of a five-year commitment to the Mason Public Schools.

Junior American Literature English teacher Amber Hasting uses a class set of Kindles that students are permitted to take home to complete the readings. She is one of two teachers who use Kindles in the high school.

“The students can take it home and bring it back and refer to passages in the reading during class. It hasn’t really affected my teaching, but I think students care more and are showing more interest to get the reading done, ” Hasting said. “I think it helps them because they can highlight and make notes within the reading, and also click on a word and look up its definition. Nine out of 30 of my students asked to have a physical book rather than the kindle, so I don’t think the Kindles will obliterate books.”

As long as the student has parent permission and knows that they are financially responsible for damage to the Kindle or its accessories, the student can use the Kindle. Use began the first trimester of the 2011-2012 school year and will continue throughout the second trimester.

“We had students that aren’t good readers or didn’t like to read that are now reading because it is just more fun on the Kindle. We have kids that have maybe never read a book in their life that are now reading and being successful,” Barbour said.

Students at Mason High School are able to check out Nooks in the library.

Mason High School Librarian, Kristen Sandel  turned to outside financial resources to buy a set of Nooks for the library in the summer of 2011. The Mason High School library has one set of Nooks available for students to check out like library books. There are about 100 books uploaded onto the Nooks ranging from young adult literature to classics,  and they are constantly being updated. The Nooks were bought with a $5,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. Sandel entered the video contest and won.

“The students love it. They think they are fun, and reading is more interactive. They love that you can be reading multiple books at a time, and that it is a more private reading

experience, but the upkeep is difficult. You always have to have someone who is willing to take care of them, the books for the Nook is the same price or almost the same price of paperback books,” Sandel said.“ I don’t think I will seek to get more Nooks unless I get another grant. It was a great way for me to try it without investing school funds, and it has been very successful.“

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