The Rye Neck School District is introducing the Google classroom and implementing a Bring Your Own Device program that takes full advantage of student cell phones’ boundless capacity to educate.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
The Rye Neck School District is introducing the Google classroom and implementing a Bring Your Own Device program that takes full advantage of student cell phones’ boundless capacity to educate. “We’re in the midst of a significant shift in thinking,” said Library Media Specialist Linda Costelloe. “What if the power of that ubiquitous cell phone was welcomed into the classroom and could be used to enhance learning?”
In this day and age, there’s no denying that kids are attached to their cell phones. Not merely a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’ the Rye Neck School District recognizes the merits of utilizing these portable devices in an academic setting. In the palm of their hands, students hold the potential to gain access to a greater depth of information more expeditiously than ever before.
“Rye Neck is always one step ahead with technology,” noted Technology Chair Steven Halper. “We’re changing the culture at the school and students are beginning to view their cell phones and other mobile devices as educational tools. It’s about taking the way we teach and aligning it with what students already know.”
The BYOD initiative has been adopted in grades 8-12 with a modified version for 6th and 7th graders. Mobile devices are available at the MSHS Library for the 1% of students who do not own one. There are currently 48 laptops in circulation. Students who do not have wifi at home utilize the wireless hotspots available throughout the area.
The district has purchased databases and on-line resources to provide students with easier access. With Overdrive, for instance, they can borrow e-books and audio books. According to Costelloe, who has worked in the district for 12 years, these resources engage the students and tap into their familiarity with their personal devices. “The goal is to empower kids, so they will continue to utilize their cell phones for learning outside the classroom,” she said. “Learning doesn’t stop once they leave here.”
Having provided tech support for 25 years, Halper, along with Costelloe, co-chairs a Google pilot group comprised of Bellows and Daniel Warren Librarians Bill McKeon and Leigh Ann Kowalchick-Porphy, as well as middle and high school teachers. The team is responsible for determining the best ways to integrate devices that provide access to the Internet and all that the Google suite of tools has to offer, enhancing their lessons and supporting the Common Core.
Google Apps for Education is opening up a whole new world to Rye Neck’s learning community. Students can open their Google accounts and access documents, resources, and assignments that teachers have established in the Cloud. They can retrieve essential information anytime or work on group projects over school breaks from miles away.
“A Google classroom allows teachers and students to collaborate and share,” said Halper, admitting it’s quite a departure from the first lone computer he worked on at the library years ago.
Incorporating Google classrooms throughout the district is no small endeavor. Currently, 30 teachers and administrators have familiarized themselves with Chromebooks, Google’s simple, speedy, and affordable computer. The pilot group is currently exploring its possibilities with a Google instructor at BOCES.
“The library and the technology department are at the epicenter, but in order for the initiative to succeed it takes a network of people,” remarked Costelloe, who is grateful to work in such a collegial atmosphere. “Rye Neck is excited to be a part of the move to enrich our students’ educational experience by integrating these tools.”