News
10:50 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Thousands of GCS Students, Teachers Go Digital

Guilford County’s middle school students and teachers will have a new tool this year.

Guilford County Schools is spending about $30 million to buy new tablets for 6th-8th graders and teachers at 18 middle schools. They will allow students to remote into class while also enabling teachers to see instantly which students understand which concepts. The districts remaining 6 middle schools will get tablets next year.
Credit Kathryn Mobley

The Guilford County School System is using part of its $35.2 million from the Race to the Top District Grant to put new digital tablets in the hands of students and teachers at 18 middle schools. Amplify makes the devices. Superintendent Maurice Green says these tools will enhance how students learn. “In math for example, it will allow students to show when they have mastered a particular concept and then see what the next concept will be," says Green. "They can also access programs that will allow them to get remediation if they need help. That will allow them to do more work on their own and personalize their learning opportunities.” According to Green, the tablets are WiFi capable, students will be able to take them home and the devices have a number of security features. Some prevent students from accessing inappropriate websites while others protect each student’s user information and grades from hacking.

Rydell Harrison is principal of Otis L. Hairston Senior Middle School in the eastern part of Greensboro.
He says the majority of his 800 students are African Americans and Latinos. Also more than 90% are on  free or reduced priced lunch. He says these tablets will level the playing field for his students while also inspiring them. "Traditionally students who don't perform well in school have the belief that learning is happening to them and outside forces are trying to force information into their heads," explains Harrison.
"I think putting the technology in their hands makes them an active participant in what they are working on and gives them opportunities to  investigate things they are interested in as well."

The tablets will also enable students who are home because of an illness or injury to remotely connect into class, follow the lesson and do the day's work.  Another benefit according to Harrison are the number of programs that will help teachers manage their classrooms. "They can press a button and the message, 'eyes on teacher', will appear on each student's tablet. The teacher can do a quick (digital) poll to see who understands the concepts and who doesn't, they can see how students are answering questions and they can quickly give quizzes," explains Harrison. "The teacher can also block certain apps to keep students focused. So while we want students to be more responsible for their learning, we still want the teacher to guide them in that process."

After Labor Day, 17,000 students will get their tablets. Next year, students at Guilford County's remaining 6 middle schools will get the devices. According to Green, in the next few years, every Guilford County School student and teacher will have a tablet. The district has about 72,000 students.