Pat Jones, Director of Transportation for Wakulla County Schools, constantly brainstorms ideas to help improve student behavior and increase educational opportunities on bus rides. Getting buy-in from Superintendent Bobby Pearce, Chief Academic Officer Sunny Chancy, and Medart Principal Kim Dutton, she came up with a plan for students on one of the longer bus routes to use computer tablets on their ride.
“It has the potential not only to help our students’ educational growth, but also to increase positive behavior and reduce discipline issues,” notes Director Jones. Starting with one bus route, she says, “Bus driver Ramona Langston has 60 elementary age students on a 45-minute ride each way. Why not use this time to everyone’s advantage?”
Adds Principal Dutton, “The program allows students longer instructional engagement time while giving them a high interest activity. I have students asking if they can ride ‘the tablet’ bus.” In addition, the 60 tablets are doled out to Medart Elementary School teachers for use during the day so even more students can benefit from them.
On-the-Job Training (OJT) Wakulla High School senior Jaselyn Hicks works as a bus attendant on the long rides in order to help students navigate their computer programs and keep them on track. Says Superintendent Bobby Pearce, “It’s a great use of our resources on all fronts. Our elementary students are having their lessons reinforced, our high school student is getting practical experience working with children, our teachers are getting more technology in their classrooms, and of course, our bus driver is able to concentrate on her most important job of transporting the children safely.”
The pilot program has also caught the attention of Kevin Snowden, Florida Department of Education Director of School Transportation Management. He will be showcasing the program at the National Association of Pupil Transportation conference in Kansas in November, where state directors are bringing their best practices to share.
Measuring the success of the program will be conducted throughout the year. Baseline student data from the prior year’s standardized testing is being used as a starting point, with student growth and achievement noted on various assessments students take throughout the year such as Discovery Education Assessments (DEA) and Renaissance Learning Star assessments.
Some of the programs available include ABC Mouse, State the States, Sight Word Racing, and PBS Kids. Games concentrate on reading and math skills such as place value, money, alphabetical order, punctuation, synonyms, antonyms, parts of speech, fractions, order of operations, pre-algebra, root words, decimals, geometry, measurement, multiplication, sentence jumbles, and analogies.
Ultimately, the target is that students will increase their learning as assessed on the standardized Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) given each spring. “We especially want to see some of our struggling students who may not have access to academic practice and games on a regular basis outside of school to get the most out of those 90 minutes every day,” states Superintendent Pearce.
If the program is successful, the District will be looking for ways to fund additional tablets on the longer bus rides and also to expand it to other school sites.