David Ivey, principal of North Iredell Middle School, shows NIMS seventh-graders Hunter Tharpe and Jenna Hanson a video on the school's Facebook page that is designed to teach students about online safety ahead of a big technology roll-out in the district.

Middle school and high school students in Iredell-Statesville Schools will soon be handed either a laptop or tablet device as part of the $20 million federal IMPACT grant. But first, they’re getting a lesson in staying out of trouble online.

Each school in the district has been asked before the end of the year to prepare students for the technology roll-out by teaching digital safety and ethics.

At North Iredell Middle School (NIMS), a video posted on the school’s Facebook page is providing an example students can easily understand. The video, which shows staff members and asks people to share and like in an effort to go viral, has been shared nearly 200 times since Tuesday and been seen by more than 10,000 people. Comments have been left by people in Scotland, Brazil, Norway, the Philippines, California and several other states as the video makes its way around the Internet.

“If (students) post something online, it’s there forever and it can be seen all over the world,” said Erin Walle, NIMS’ blended-learning coach, a new position this year in I-SS middle and high schools to help teachers transition with the IMPACT grant. “We want them to realize that information spreads fast. If it’s something they don’t want everyone to see, don’t put it online.”

I-SS is planning to give students the wireless technological devices that are a part of the grant in February. The actual device still hasn’t been chosen, nor has it been decided if students will be able to take them home. The district has had several students and teachers test different models. A decision is expected next month. 

I-SS is also still trying to find private funding to ensure that Lake Norman High School students receive devices as well. LNHS could not be included in the grant due to its low percentage of students on free-and-reduced lunch. The technology, though, is only a tool for the grant’s actual purpose – personalizing instruction.

“It’s not just about handing them a device,” said NIMS Principal David Ivey.

Classrooms are getting a bit of a makeover this year in I-SS. Rather than having a teacher stand in front of the whole class and instruct, the goal is to break the class into small groups that move between stations – either working directly with the teacher, their peers or on their device. The goal is to create a collaborative atmosphere between students that allows them to help one another learn just as much as the teacher does.

“This is not a technology grant. It’s an instructional focus,” said Traci Fox, I-SS’ blended-learning coordinator.

While the technology may only be a part of the grant, handing out devices is sure to cause excitement among students. Many of the students may not have computers at home currently, Fox said, so this month’s preparation in ethics and safety will hopefully help avoid later problems. 

Before the devices go out, I-SS will also hold required digital safety training for parents or guardians to help with preparation. Fox said parents should be excited for the new tools their children will get to use.

“It’s really a blessing to have this opportunity. As a parent, I say that, not just as an employee,” said Fox, who has a 10-year-old child in elementary school in I-SS.

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