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In the ever-changing, fast paced world of technology, schools across the state are jumping on board with technological learning tools that get kids excited to learn. Testing the theory first hand is Forestview Middle School, allowing students to bring in their own eReader to check out books from a digital eBook library.

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“It’s been extremely successful so far,” said FMS media specialist Chris Kelly, who helped implement the idea at the school. “I’m really happy with it all around. When we first started with (the program) we weren’t sure what was going to happen and of course there are concerns but more and more kids are getting in to.

“I couldn’t be happier about how it’s going.”

Starting up just this past January, Kelly said that students are able to bring in their own device from home and after a 15 minute training session — listing the do’s and don’ts of using their device and registering it to the digital library — they are ready to check out books.

Whether it’s a Nook, iPad, Kindle or even an iPod, FMS’ digital library suites them all, currently offering 600 eBooks and audio books that can be checked out like a regular library book. Kelly said currently 260 students are registered eReaders, with at least 10 more students signing up every week.

“Literally everyday I have another kid who brings in a device and wants to get trained,” Kelly said. “It’s funny because even parents are excited about it. I have parents actually calling me and asking, ‘can I get the books too?’ so everyone is just thrilled with it.”

Apprehension over devices being stolen or lost and even more concern over improper use — games and a device that can be viewed as a distraction — have been quieted Kelly said. There has only been one report of an iPad that dropped and broke, and Kelly attributes the students eagerness to have such a device to the lack of issues.

“You really take a responsibility,” said eighth-grader Coltan Peterson, who is an avid fan of the eBook system. “Sometimes when you check out paperbacks, you can lose them and have to pay them back. You know that probably won’t happen with this. You take more responsibility because you know you really don’t want to lose (your eReader), and then you don’t lose the book either.”

Gaming hasn’t been an issue either according to Kelly.

“We make it very clear in our training and rules what the purpose of these devices are for,” she said. “And the kids have really respected that. So far we have had no reports of misuse or issues in classrooms which is great.”

With the success at FMS, along with other district schools that have adapted into 21st century technology learning, the Brainerd School Board’s Long Range Planning Committee even recommended the school board approve a $335,000 expenditure for technological advancements.

“What we want to do is increase that effective and meaningful use of technology in all of our (school) systems,” said Superintendent Steve Razidlo at the committee meeting Thursday. “Even as they change as fast as we can keep up with them, it’s important to take steps to increase the use of technology in our schools to better increase our student engagement and increase student learning.”

And Kelly agrees that is exactly what FMS is doing.

“I think that this is going to really take off over the next year,” she said. “It’s ‘their thing’ and gets them excited to read. That’s all we really wanted to begin with.”

JESSI PIERCE may be reached at 855-5858 or jessi.pierce@brainerddispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessi_pierce

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