As part of a big Read Across America Day celebration, Minor Elementary School in Gwinnett County opened up a Digital Den in the school media center. The “digital” part of the den is that the school was given new Kindles, a special gift from Rusty Holcombe of Holcombe Financial. Rusty is the neighbor of a school employee who happens to love talking about her school and the great progress her students are making. He gifted the school in an effort to encourage that growth. Other schools around the state have gotten their devices in similar ways or by applying for grants or turning in copious amounts of Box Tops, Soup Labels, and other incentive program points. Principal Christina Wimmer said that the school has just submitted an application for tablets to put in the classrooms. They also applied to be a Bring Your Own Technology school to increase devices in classrooms. It seems this school understands how important it is to get technology into the hands of their students.
At Minor Elementary, there are enough devices for each student in a class to have one. This is great when an entire class is working on a project or following along in a read-aloud session together. On the day we visited, the Digital Den was brand new, complete with a plush area rug surrounded by new bean bags to define the space and invite students in. They do not have tablets in their classrooms (yet). The media specialists said they were surprised to hear from the students that a majority of them had not used a tablet device before today.
That meant that the school needed to find a way to introduce the new devices and educate the students on how to use them. I think they worked out a good model. We were there in time to see a group of first graders learning about the Kindles. Before anyone got to hold a device, they talked about how these are different from books. How do you turn it on? How do you “turn a page”? How do you keep them safe? Some extra time was spent on that last one, impressing upon the students how the screen can break and if it does what that means – you won’t get to see what could be your favorite part of the story. That seemed to really sink in with the kids. All day long the staff will work with students one class at a time, giving each student opportunity to interact hands-on with a device and ask any questions they have.
The devices are loaded up with dozens of books and will be used exclusively in the Digital Den for now. Eventually, they anticipate allowing students to move to work tables in the library or allow teachers to check several out at a time for classroom projects.
The Instructional Coach, Daphne Carroll, leading the student training asked students what they know or think about the Kindles. One first grader, new to the device, seemed to get it just right, “You can go places on it and learn more.”
Does your school have tablets? Where are you using them and how did you go about introducing the new technology to your students?
You can see images in the slideshow below of fifth and first graders from Minor Elementary as they explore their new devices.