SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers teachers are now speaking the same language as their students after the school rolled out personal tablets to the 835 students in grades eight through 10.
Freshmen will now receive a tablet with full access to Internet, apps and other resources for both instructional and personal use. They will keep it for three years, including summers and other school breaks, which Somers Schools Instructor of Technology, Chris White, said was the “trade-off.”
“By arming these students with these tablets, we believe that even if it’s not being used that day in class, it’s still being used as a learning tool,” he said.
Global History teacher Brenda O’Shea has already started integrating the 21st century tool into her classes, but said she won’t use the tablet for every lesson.
“It has to makes sense so that I’m adding to what I was doing previously, as opposed to just doing it for the sake of doing it,” she said.
In three years, all students in grades six through 12 will have a personal tablet, which cost $450 a piece and $645,000 altogether. It did this without increasing its technology budget.
“Students will need to have this kind of devise in order to keep up with the flow of information because text books can no longer contain the content appropriate for a student to be knowledgeable,” White said.
With class notes, textbooks and assignments available online to Somers students, school is no longer where they get their information – what White called the “factory model” – it is where they learn how to think critically about the information, share it and become a digital citizen.
“This was a really strong hunch that we had that students were hungry for it,” White said. “And we’re a month in to it, so all early signs indicate that this is where our kids want to be.”
Teachers are still feeling their way through this “huge change in how we do things,” O’Shea said. If a student has a question during class, O’Shea said she may have them look it up and share it with the class.
Tablets make learning inside the classroom active instead of passive by putting the onus on the student to find the information and understand it.
“It’s not about memorizing the Battle of Hasting and the dates, it’s about recognizing the impact. They can always look up 1066, but can they figure out what that changed? And that’s important,” she said.