Innovating Learning

A photo from when the students were first given the tablets.

Isabel Hanewicz, Staff Writer

As students in Stacy Zuppa’s block 1.1 class filter in, they begin their typical bell work rountine-starting on some math problems, setting up their notes-but instead of with a paper and pencil, with a tablet.

Zuppa received a class set of Microsoft Surface RT tablets for her use in class through a pilot program being done throughout the county. Certain teachers were chosen to pilot Microsoft devices through the “1:1” initiative, meaning that there is one student to every device. The Florida State statue 1006.282, “Authorizing each district school board to designate schools to implement a pilot program for the transition to instructional materials in an electronic or digital format,” passed into law in 2011 as part of Florida Senate Bill 2120 allows the school district to implement the pilot program into classes like Zuppa’s.

“We had talked about it in a technology committee last year but it never came to happen, so I’m happy [about the tablets] because I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now,” said Zuppa. “I think that any more technology is a part of society, especially with the web.”

Zuppa’s class will be using the tablets to take notes, and saving their notes to SkyDrive, a Microsoft “cloud” where they can access the notes from any electronic device. Eventually, Zuppa hopes to find applications on the tablets to help enhance her student’s learning experience.

“With any technology initiative, we are always looking for innovative educators to set the tone from their own specific expertise,” said Joshua Sawyer, one of two technology educators in Hillsborough County selected for the Microsoft Expert Educator program. Sawyer travels around the country with Microsoft, training teachers like Zuppa how to use Microsoft devices in their classrooms.

“In Mrs. Zuppa’s case, she has a proven track record of using technology in new ways to deliver the content necessary for increasing student achievement in the classroom for her subject areas,” he said. “She has also demonstrated that she is not afraid to stand in the spotlight and is willing to try new things to enhance her classroom and bring students into the 21st century.”

If successful, the program would help the county comply with Florida Statue 1006.29, which requires that by the 2015-2016 school year (2 years from now) all newly adopted instructional materials, such as textbooks, be in a digital or electronic format.

“As the price of technology continues to decline and the power of the technology continues to expand, it becomes a great value,” said Sharon Zulli, the manager for Technology Customer Service & Support Department for Hillsborough County Schools. “What can and should be done using a tablet: sharing, communicating, collaborating and creating globally, cannot be done with pencil and paper.”