by Tammy Dunbar
Expert Educator Columnist, USA
The quad area before school usually looks a little crazy: students speeding around the benches, yelling to friends across the quad, tossing footballs (hoping to avoid the alert eyes of any yard duty personnel nearby).
But last week on Thursday, things looked much different. Students were still gathered, but there was no yelling or running. Many students were quietly seated on cement benches, some standing happily with their heavy backpacks, others animatedly chatting without an increase in volume.
Last week on Wednesday, our Going Digital 2015 project in Manteca Unified School District finally brought 1:1 devices to our campus. We are the fourth school in the district to receive our devices; all devices will be deployed to all students by the end of February. This amazing work in progress started with our visionary superintendent Jason Messer. Next came an upgrading of our infrastructure by Cisco, staff development for all teachers (often by their fellow teachers), training for our students in digital citizenship, device care and responsibility. (To read more about Going Digital 2015, click on the picture.) This past Wednesday, every single 4th-8th grade student in our school was issued a Panasonic 3E device and a charger. (Grades K-3rd got classroom carts with a class set of Panasonic 3Es.)
Teachers were allowed for the next few days to either craft their own lessons or use any lessons from our online Teacher Tech Center (created by teachers in our district) that really showcase what the devices can do.
My students carefully carried their new devices from the cafeteria (where they received them) back to the classroom. As any teacher knows, the first time students get a manipulative or tool you want them to use, you have to let them play with it first – just to get it out of their system. So I invited the students to personalize their devices (lock screen, wall paper, profile picture, etc.) and explore the pre-loaded apps (including the complete Microsoft Office Suite of products). Students were intent on learning how to use the camera, the Fresh Paint app and the save feature so they could get pictures from the internet to use. When they showed off their new personalized profiles and backgrounds, the pride was obvious.
I invited students to share one thing they had discovered on their new devices, and it was wonderful to listen to them present as, using the Intel Classroom Management app, I clicked on each student’s device icon and projected his/her screen up on the big screen. As we build a new community of learners, I’m heartened by the camaraderie and teamwork I’ve witnessed thus far; students love sharing what they know with each other and learning yet another cool new trick.
What I didn’t expect was the level of calm in the classroom and on our school campus; our students seem to realize the importance and privilege of this new tool they have been given. Our students now have the tools they need to prepare for a successful future, and we at MUSD are expecting brilliance from all of them.
Our first official assignment after receiving our Panasonic 3E devices came after finishing reading Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Using a PowerPoint slide to support the lesson, students were invited to: 1) Find a picture on the internet that reminded them of a part of the story, 2) Save the picture on their device, 3) Attach the picture to an email to me, and 4) Write in the email what part of the story the picture reminded them of and what they thought of the story. We practiced web searching, copying, saving, attaching and sending email — skills they will need for classwork, homework, testing and their future careers – all in one lesson!
Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., S.T.E.M. teaches 5th grade in Manteca Unified School District and Pre-Service Technology at Teachers College of San Joaquin (Stockton, CA). She will be presenting at ISTE 2015, CUE 2015 and CTA Good Teaching North 2015. Tammy has presented for CTA Good Teaching North (2014), Cap CUE (2014), all three California Subject Matters Project Conferences, Capitol Area Science Education Leaders, and several San Joaquin County Office of Education events as well as others. She won the 2010 eInstruction $75,000 Classroom Makeover Video Contest, wrote a successful Enhancing Education Through Technology grant for Manteca Unified School District in 2008, and was Teacher of the Year in MUSD in 2006. She is on the MUSD Superintendent’s Technology Committee as the district embarks on their “Going Digital 2015” project.