Feagin Mill demonstrates how to use smartphones in classroom

awoolen@macon.comSeptember 25, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Most children go to school with pens and pencils. Last week, students at Feagin Mill Middle School went with iPhones instead.

Houston County piloted “Bring Your Own Device” days at the school in May and is phasing in the program throughout the system this school year. On Sept. 18, faculty and students at Feagin Mill showed off the findings and the ways they use their smartphones for classroom activities.

Above the classroom doors were signs that told students whether to “power up” or “power down” depending on whether the devices were going to be used in class that day.

In Laurie Kirkley’s eighth-grade art class, students were asked to choose a photograph and use an app to make pop art.

“I just experiment with it,” said Michelle Matchette, who used a picture of a leaf and turned it into different colors.

Her classmate, Rachel Plocki, used a photo of an anime character to duplicate and change color.

“It is a lot easier than going to the computer lab to do it,” Rachel said.

Both girls used their personal phones to perform the tasks. Students who didn’t have their own phones or iPads shared with others, and some students brought more than one device.

Matchette said they also use a program called Edmodo, which she explained as “kinda like a classroom Facebook.”

From art class, the students were told to keep the phones powered on for physical education. There, the eighth-graders used a QR reader on their phones to scan a code that told the group which exercises to perform.

Speech therapist Lindsey Jones uses a school-owned iPad to help special needs students.

Tyler Boyd, a sixth-grader, is primarily a non-speaker, but he communicated with his teachers through the iPad.

“He blew me away with his concept knowledge,” Jones said.

When she tried to show him how to use an app, he pushed her hand aside because he was already grasping the concept. The iPad helps Tyler use fine motor skills on the touch-screen as well as work on his social skills because he is able to take photos of his classmates.

Teachers from other schools had a question and answer session after watching some of the devices in action in the classrooms.

“You all are trailblazers,” said Larry Wadsworth, curriculum integration specialist for Houston County schools.

Feagin Mill seventh-grade math teacher Dustin Rainey said most students know having a phone in class is a privilege, and they aren’t afraid to tell on fellow students when they aren’t doing what they are supposed to with the device.

“Kids police themselves,” he said.

Principal Jesse Davis told the group the county has contracts for parents and students to sign before the device can be brought to school.

So far, Davis said, he has heard of no thefts of devices at his school. Teachers also have implemented a “hands-free zone” where devices are put, so no one is distracted by having one.

“Students will surprise you with their level of responsibility,” he said.


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