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Hazel Green pilots county’s blended learning, BYOT initiatives

Seniors at Hazel Green High School in blended learning classes can opt to work on assignments from home on three days weekly. Hazel Green also is piloting a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative for Madison County Schools. (CONTRIBUTED)
Seniors at Hazel Green High School in blended learning classes can opt to work on assignments from home on three days weekly. Hazel Green also is piloting a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative for Madison County Schools. (CONTRIBUTED)

HAZEL GREEN – Hazel Green High School is piloting blended learning and Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiatives for Madison County Schools.

Seniors in a blended learning class meet in person two days weekly. During the other three ‘e-learning’ days, students can opt to work on assignments from home.

Teachers have tried Edmodo, similar to Facebook, Haiku, Schoology and Canvas applications. Most programs document when and how long a students logs in.

When a classmate was sick, students in a group project solved the problem themselves with FaceTime. “They found the solution that most closely re-created the classroom experience the sick student was missing,” teacher lead Cameron Case said.

The BYOT trial resulted from lack of funding. “There simply isn’t money to provide 1-1 devices as other nearby systems have done,” Case said. Also, proponents believe BYOT gives students “a more personalized experience.”

“Instead of asking students to learn the ins-and-outs of device X, students are learning on devices they’re already comfortable using,” Case said. Some use a phone, others a tablet or laptop.

The BYOT trial is open to any teacher comfortable with the idea … at any extent. Case’s English classes and Dawn Cole’s chemistry classes began the pilot.

“We made a concerted effort to use student-owned technology daily to help ease the learning curve for other teachers,” Case said. The pilot ran from September 2013 to March 2014.

“Some have jumped in feet first; others are wading in slowly. Teachers (need to) be comfortable with the technology” for purposeful use, Case said.

Tools include Google Docs, a cloud-based program suite similar to Microsoft Office, along with Docs (like Word), Sheets (like Excel), a calendar, Gmail and Google Drive (cloud-based file storage).

Students “love” the BYOT initiative and are gaining self-discipline and college-like exposure. “Teachers are probably more of a mixed bag. Change is often uncomfortable. For those who have tried it, BYOT becomes one of the most engaging tools at a teacher’s disposal,” Case said.

Hazel Green and county administrators are continuing their ongoing evaluation.

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