Hitting the Nooks
Educators in the Franklin County School System are looking at new and innovative ways to keep students interested in reading and studying by using technology many students use in their spare time.
This fall, students at Belgreen High School, Tharptown High School and Phil Campbell Elementary School received Nooks, which are e-readers manufactured and sold by Barnes & Noble, to enhance their learning experience through the school system’s “Read More” program.
Tilda Sumerel, who serves as the school system’s federal programs assistant, started looking into acquiring the Nooks earlier this year for students to use in preparing for the graduation exam and to more fully develop their reading skills.
“Our finances are strapped just like every other school system across the state so we wanted to find an alternate way to get technology into our students’ hands other than purchasing more computers we just can’t afford,” Sumerel said. “These Nooks are more affordable but they have the ability to access websites that can help our older students at Tharptown and Belgreen prepare for the graduation exam and our younger students at Phil Campbell Elementary work on their reading and vocabulary skills.”
In addition to the ability to access educational websites for studying and books for reading, Sumerel said the Nooks serve many other purposes as well.
“At Tharptown, a third of the student body is Hispanic and these Nooks have audio capabilities so that if a person is having trouble reading or understanding a word or what it means, they can touch the word and it will be audibly sounded out and will give a dictionary definition of the word and how it’s used in that particular sentence, so it will be an invaluable tool for our English language learners,” she said.
“There are also many educational games and videos that can be downloaded to help with vocabulary, spelling and other things.”
Sumerel said besides these features, the added bonus was that the e-readers were something new that many students either had at home or have seen advertised on TV and would like to have, so it makes the educational uses for the Nook seem like fun.
“This is the kind of technology kids are used to these days,” she said. “If we can find something that makes kids get excited about reading or studying, that’s something we want for our students.”
Steve Pounders, Belgreen’s principal, said he was on board with the idea of the Nooks as soon as Sumerel brought it up.
“The students love to be engaged in what they’re doing and this provides them a hands-on way to learn,” he said. “We’re happy to have them and I know our teachers will be able to utilize them to help our students learn.”
Belgreen teacher Shauna Humphries said from a teacher’s standpoint, the Nooks would be helpful in the classroom.
“We’re really excited our school has this kind of technology,” she said. “It makes it easier for us, as teachers, when the kids are enjoying what they’re doing. I really see this being helpful with our state assessments and just for everyday reading.”
Sumerel said funding for the Nooks has been provided by federal funding through the Title I program, the school system’s technology funds, funds at the individual schools, and at PCES the funds came from tornado relief money given specifically to be used for the children.
“Right now we just have the Nooks at three schools, but we’d like to get them at all of our schools and increase the number we have at the existing schools. Anyone that would like to donate to help us make that possible is more than welcome to do so.”
Sumerel said she hasn’t found another school system in the state that uses the Nooks for reading and she is proud Franklin County can lead the way for new ideas.
“We are a rural school systems, but we don’t want that to keep us from having the latest technology available for our students.”