Pine Tree launches mobile device project for Freshmen

Pine Tree launches mobile device project for Freshmen
MGN-Online
The School Yard
Monday, October 21, 2013 - 10:57am

More than 350 Pine Tree ninth-grade students will have access to school-issued mini-iPads this school year as part of a larger initiative the district is calling, “PowerOnPT.” The multi-year plan, which includes a roll out of the one-to-one device initiative was made possible after funds from the Bond of 2011 provided the necessary infrastructure to provide additional technology. A variety of projects, experiences and strategies are planned to build more engaging learning environments for students.

“Technology changes the way we learn and the way we teach,” said Dr. TJ Farler, Superintendent at Pine Tree school district.“ Our society is moving rapidly to a culture of mobility, and Pine Tree ISD intends to provide our students with the necessary skills they need to be successful. Anytime, anywhere learning is achievable with digital tools and innovative teaching strategies.”

The multi-year plan to provide a mobile device for all high school students was discussed and approved at the April 2013 school board meeting. Administrators have been working to move forward with the comprehensive plan entitled, “PowerOnPT.” Teachers are receiving training on how to use a variety apps in the context of project-based lessons.

“We want every student in high school to have the option to use an iPad mini as one of their tools for classroom lessons and research, by the end of the 2014-2015 school year,” said Farler. “9th grade is just our first wave.”

The Pine Tree ISD School Board began discussing technology initiatives several years ago. The decision to specifically improve the district-wide technology infrastructure with funding from the 2011 Bond Election, paved the way for a much faster and more efficient gigabyte environment. As part of the Bond package, voters approved 1) Upgrades to the Wide Area Network, 2) Recabling of the Junior High and Intermediate Campus Local Area Network, 3) Upgraded Wifi network district-wide, and 4) New Local Area Network cabling for the High School campus and the addition of Career Technology studios, labs and equipment. Several other high-tech efforts are underway or completed across the district, including expanding the district’s robotics program, adding a Mac-lab for journalism, and a broadcast studio are among the new additions and innovations.

Jon Pollard, Pine Tree’s new Director of Technology said the district is moving closer to accomplishing their goals. “We are working to establish a standardized baseline for each classroom in the core subjects to have robust access to the internet through both desktops and mobile devices,” he said.

PT High School Principal, Cindy Gabehart said the announcement to the ninth grade students and parents was exciting. “We introduced the news to students and parents at Freshman Orientation,” said Gabehart. “We plan to distribute the iPads sometime in early November, but have already started educating our staff, parents and students on best practices and procedures.”

Tony Tipton, PTHS Freshman Assistant Principal explained how the team is preparing for the rollout. “We want to set down the rules and parameters very clearly, and help our students understand their new personal device is a valuable learning tool, but it is school property and not a toy,” Tipton said. “It is powerful educational resource.”

“The iPads will be equipped with a filter that travels with students so Pine Tree-issued tablets can not be used to surf inappropriate websites”, Pollard said. Students will be required to pay a technology fee, and additional training sessions for parents to learn alongside their children is planned for the fall and spring semesters.

“We want our parents to know they are a partner with us in keeping students safe while on the internet,” said Dr. Daya Hill, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “We want them to enjoy the process of learning with this new tool, but we know they must also learn the importance of digital citizenship.”

Hill said textbooks and material can be loaded into the iPads. She said they hope to replace hardback textbooks with virtual ones over the years to come. “The electronic versions of the books are more cost effective, and in addition to saving money, will provide greater access to a wide variety of authors and vocabulary tools,” she said.

Nicolle Davis is new to the role of instructional technology coordinator at Pine Tree this year. Her role to help teachers bridge the digital divide is in great demand.

A community committee has formed to guide the process as the district navigates these new waters. “In order to move the effort forward, we have created a PowerOnPT Community Committee with hopes to engage more stakeholders in the discussion and gain a broader perspective about the direction for Pine Tree ISD,” said Dr. Hill.

For more information visit the PowerOnPT webpage linked to ptisd.org, or contact info@ptisd.org.
 

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