Cottonwood-Oak Creek schools have spent a year finding a middle ground between forbidding electronics on campus and teaching students their benefits in a modern world.
Kathy Epperson, the technology integration coach for every instructor in the district, provided the governing board with an update Tuesday night on Bring Your Own Device, a program that has been implemented in federal agencies and schools across the country.
Bring Your Own Device is intended to better prepare children for the 21st century workplace and college, but Epperson said it is not a given that all students have access to the Internet, much less laptops, tablets, smartphones or eReaders.
Some students have outdated devices that do not support PARCC assessment access and Flash Player requirements.
"I'm looking hard to find ways to make sure those students aren't left behind when we do activities in the classroom," Epperson said.
The schools do provide what electronics they can, though these resources are at a premium. She is working on a pilot program that would allow donors to make a tax-deductible donation for the purchase of electronics for students.
"Hopefully, if enough parents will buy into that, we can shuffle devices in upper grades to lower grades," Epperson said.
Board President Jason Finger recommended certain resources for classroom technology be placed on wish lists that typically include basics like tissues, rulers and pencils.
Teachers wrote technology lessons over the summer that were submitted to coaches after a seven-day program. The best lesson plans would be shared with the all teachers in the district.
"That's why those lessons they're writing are so important," Epperson said. "It's an expectation that everyone in that grade level will teach it in that way."
Students use Google applications to share documents and collaborate, one of the four C's of BYOD that include communication, creativity and critical thinking.
"Kids can go in and do all of the four C's," she said.
Epperson introduced Kathleen Jensen Edmodo, an 8th grade math teacher at Cottonwood Middle School with a master's degree in educational technology. The two attended this summer's International Society for Technology Education Conference.
Jensen is the first teacher in the school to use a flipped classroom model, and Epperson chose her to be the meeting's instructional technology showcase teacher.
In a flipped model, teachers stand at the back of the class and assists students who are working on computers to master material. Students work at their own pace, some finishing course work more quickly than others.
Students who may be falling behind can find extra help during lunch and an extra class period during the day, Epperson said.
One of Jensen's main goals was to find a way to use her iPad like a mobile Smart Board. She found a $13 program that makes everything she does on her iPad visible to her students.
Jensen used the program to show President Jason Finger and the board an integers lesson she gave to students. Finger said this allows the teacher or students to take the iPad and demonstrate to the class how to work out problems.
"That's so much cheaper than a Smart Board," he said.
Jensen uses Edmodo.com, a social learning platform where students have to master or excel modules before being allowed to move on to new material.
The site also allows students to create a Facebook-like presence, including a profile picture and favorite quotes.
If a student fails a module, the program can tell them what they did wrong before taking them back to the beginning.
"They really do get the full practice out of it," Jensen said.
Constant, close monitoring is another challenge for teachers infusing their classrooms with technology.
"(Students are) really excited about the technology use, but they're not really committed yet to using it appropriately," Jensen said. "They want to go off and play games."
Students have taken a while to adapt to using technology in the classroom, but "once you get it going, it's really powerful," Jensen said.
Jensen said the children are quick to problem solve. One of her classes figured out how to flip the display on their computer screens. When the next class came in, they had to work out how to turn the screens right side up.
"Let the kids go, they'll figure out a way to make it work," Jensen said.
Epperson said the program is still in its early stages, and she will continue to work with teachers to make it work..
"We will continue to change and revise and fix things as we go," she said.