Cumberland has purchased tablet computers for all of its middle school students. The district tells Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison the new technology is changing classrooms in a big way.
Cumberland middle school principals say the traditional teacher-led class has been turned on its head since the district purchased Chromebooks for every sixth, seventh and eighth grader.
Students are doing more group work, and teachers act more like facilitators.
McCourt Middle School Principal Jay Masterson says a few Math teachers are experimenting with video-taping their lectures. They assign students to watch the lectures at home, then devote class time to solving problems.
"Students also have the opportunity to watch those videos over and over again in the event that they didn’t understand it the first time," said Masterson. "In the traditional classroom, once the lesson’s over, the lesson’s over. There’s no opportunity to rewind."
Masterson says teachers are mindful of the need to preserve time for classroom discussions, especially among middle school students, who are still developing relationship skills. When it's time for a class discussion, teachers use what Masterson calls "a 45." That means students lower their Chromebook lids to a 45-degree angle.
"We also call a 180, where the Chromebook will be turned around and facing the teacher, so that they’re not distracted at all, they’re not attempting to look at their device,” Masterson explained.
It cost Cumberland about $450,000 to purchase the laptops for more than a thousand middle school students. The plan calls for students to take the computers with them into high school.