Computer tablets replace paper, books for Brookstone freshmen

Students in Mary Lou Jarrell’s freshman math class at Brookstone School sit hunched over their desks, working on a set of assigned problems on percentages.

But instead of scribbling answers on notebook paper, they write on an electronic tablet with a stylus. And instead of turning in papers for a grade, they e-mail their answers to the teacher.

All 79 freshmen at the Columbus private school received Toshiba tablet computers this year. The students will keep the laptops and each consecutive ninth-grade class will also receive laptops. The faculty also received tablet computers last year.

“It has opened up new ways of communication,” Jarrell said. “The concepts of math have not changed.”

The school received a $100,000 grant to cover some of the cost of the laptops and maintenance. Parents also chip in, paying either $1,000 up front or $300 a year.

Students can use the tablet like a traditional laptop, typing notes or browsing the Internet, or they can flip the screen around, fold it down and handwrite their notes using a stylus. Students can also use the school’s wireless network to share notes and problems with other students or on an interactive white board in the classroom. The school is also in the process of using more electronic textbooks that can be loaded onto the tablets.

“They’re not carrying around backpacks full of books anymore,” said Headmaster Brian Kennerly, who added that the tablets are also able to help teachers meet different learning needs. He mentioned one student who learned better by listening, so he didn’t take notes in class, but recorded lectures on the tablet. He would study by listening to the recorded lectures at home.

“It’s a different age. We have to be able to meet kids where they are in a new age of learning,” Kennerly said.

Julie Sway, the school’s instructional technology coordinator, said other students use their tablets to get on Skype — a online video messaging service — after school and study together. She said she also thinks the tablet keeps students more organized and keeps them from losing notes.

Billy Byrd, a history teacher, agreed.

“There’s not homework paper lost or left on a desk,” Byrd said. He uses his tablet to construct lectures for class, adding historic art and music to the lesson.

“I could just do a straight chalk and talk,” Byrd said. However, the tablet offers a “more diverse presentation,” he said. While some students may use the laptop as a distraction in class, he said it’s no different than when students used to pass notes in class.

Eli Ussery, a freshman, said the new tablet program was one of the things that convinced him to apply to Brookstone.

“It doubles as a personal computer,” Ussery said.

Freshmen Tayler Townsend and Landon Averett said the tablet helps them get organized.

“Typing your notes is a lot easier,” Townsend said.

“You don’t have to buy binders,” Averrett said.

In her freshman math classes, Jarrell gave every student a book — then told them to take it home and put it under the bed, to use when the tablet computer failed. But she also still takes homework on paper from students, if they are more comfortable with that medium.

“Some have embraced it whole-heartedly,” Jarrell said. “We’re on a journey together trying to figure this out.”

Sara Pauff, 706-320-4469

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