Payne awarded funding for e-readers


Nook e-readers are now available in the science center for students to use. These devices are the result of a grant proposed by technology specialist Cynthia Payne. Loaded with science information, they will make it easier for students to access information such as science videos, tutorials, and eventually, PAKs. The Nooks will also be an offline resource for outdoor projects such as the birding project.

Last year, the science center proposed the idea of using tablet technology, including Nooks, for learning. After several unsuccessful grant proposals to the local foundation, teacher Deborah Valdez turned to Payne to discuss other options.

As the instructional technology specialist, Payne looked into other options and thought of Donors Choose, an online charity that connects donors and educators to help fund projects for students. She wrote and uploaded a proposal to the website in hopes of finding donors to fund this project.

“My job is to help teachers implement projects and activities that use technology to help students learn more,” she said. “[This] is why I was involved in this to begin with.”

Her job also includes getting the technology students need to succeed.

“A lot of what I do is really related more towards trying to get the things that you guys need to really have you guys be prepared for when you’re in college—when you’re adults; to use technology in educational ways,” she said.

Payne had used Donors Choose before on other campuses. She noted the charity was available to “any educator—teachers, librarians, people who work with students in classroom at times.”

Donors Choose requires the applicant to have a specific goal.

You can’t do it like a school grant. It has to be for a particular group [of students] and anyone in the public [can] make donations,” she said.

Usually, there would be several donors for a project because donors may choose to donate any amount. For this project, however, Chevron’s “Fuel Your School” program funded the project entirely.

“Chevron[‘s] project was aimed at Harris County. They had a bunch of money that they donated to Harris County and they said, ‘We’re going to fund until we run out of money,'” Payne added, noticing that the company seemed very interested in projects involving math, science and technology.

Payne also had to turn in a lengthy application to the district to get the device approved.

“Any time that you try to do a project that involves a device that is not already approved in the district, you have to go through a bunch of other approval processes before you can do it,” she said.

As a start, the Nook Color tablets, available for checkout at the science counter, will have science materials  preloaded on them for students to use.

“The teachers have created some things and then we’re also using things we’re getting from Barnes and Nobles and some of the apps out there for Android devices,” Payne said, citing the Audubon Society app that identifies birds and other things.

For teacher Margaret Bancroft, it’s exciting to have new technology.

“I’d like to put some videos of seminars and little mini-tutorials on how to work out different problems,” she said.

Teacher Kathleen Kilmer feels that the devices will serve to make the learning process much easier, considering all the possibilities having a Nook offers.

“It’s pretty cool, [It’s amazing] all the stuff you could store on a device like this-and the sound quality and the picture quality are excellent,” she said. “It doesn’t replace any curriculum- it’s just another tool.”

Teacher Clarissa Caro plans to have different apps on the Nooks for portable use.

“There [are] different apps that we’re looking at right now for like bird watching. It’s a portable resource that they can take with them outside.”

Caro also hopes to revolutionize science materials and PAKs.

“Our big plan is to eventually have all of the PAKs on there. It would be a resource for if the internet would go out or it would be a portable device that you would always be able to access to do your work.”

Valdez is looking forward to the new tablet technology and hopes to fund through Donors Choose again.

“I’m so happy about Donors Choose because it’s funding quite a bit of stuff and in fact, several of us are trying to do new grants,” she said. “So [it] is an exciting new idea.”