The way education is taught in Phenix City schools took a turn for the hi-tech. Superintendent Randy Wilkes has made it his mission to install a revamped, technological revolution within the school district.
The superintendent has brought changes over from Crenshaw County, where he had previous school administration experience. The revolution started with a push toward teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum in a greater measure in all of the schools. As part of what Wilkes calls Phase 1, the school district distributed 1,500 pre-programmed iPads with several textbooks and about 25 learning applications in order to enhance learning.
Wilkes says the iPads help students to better “convey, communicate and collaborate.” The interactive, hands-on and minds-on learning program is formally called the Carnegie Method, brand new in 2015. Wilkes hopes to put Phenix City Schools on the cutting edge of innovative technology. In fact, by 2016, Wilkes hopes to put a tablet in the hands of every student in 6th-12th grades. He says this is one of the only ways to help Title 1 students.
“It’s important that we STEM them out of poverty,” Wilkes said. “And it’s not just for the child of poverty. It’s for all students.”
Currently, only 6th-8th graders have been issued tablets to take home for their studies (after their parents opt in and pay the $25 one-time usage fee). Other schools in the district have made use of tablets within the classroom. Wilkes says with the implementation of new technology, they must keep a watchful eye on how students make use of it.
Phenix City Schools will make students take a Digital Stewardship Class, which will tell students about the rules involved in the iPad initiative (like never clearing history). Wilkes says teachers will periodically check students’ histories on the devices and they will be disciplined according to the school’s code of conduct.
Wilkes also acknowledged the problems that could arise if there is a network or technical failure. Teachers will have a backup copy of information stored on their computer hard drives, and a limited amount of textbooks will be available.
Even still, the superintendent says the move toward iPads will help save the school district and parents money in the long haul. The next moves for Phenix City Schools involve building a 10,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art STEM center at Phenix City Intermediate School and extending the STEM curriculum to four-year-old’s and high schoolers.