The changing classroom: The age of the iPad
Story and photos by Clarke Davis
The great-grandparents of today’s students were given their own tablets, page-size slates with chalk and an eraser. They were tools for learning.
In the overall scheme of things nothing has changed. There’s a teacher with assignments followed by tests, but in the digital age the tools are remarkably different.
The tablets handed to students today are iPads, page-size mini-computers that not only contain the textbook in many instances but also connect to the Internet providing the resources of a library.
Deb Spade’s Valley Falls High School world history class was concentrating on geography recently. A map of North and South America was projected on the screen — the same map visible on students’ iPads — and the teacher was calling out students to locate a country or city.
The student would mark it on his or her iPad and it would be projected on the wall map for the other students to agree or disagree.
One had to differentiate Haiti from the Dominican Republic and they were taught that the Panama Canal runs north and south — not east and west — at a particular point in the Isthmus.
“Look where it’s at. Mark it somewhere else and you will get it wrong on the test,” Spade said.
“Don’t call on Luke to find Brazil,” someone said. The teacher later clarified the joke. Lucas Cherene is an exchange student from Brazil.
After trailing potatoes from their original home in Peru and Chili to London and then to America, the program was switched for a discussion on mercantilism, world trade, and new economic ideas and concepts.
The versatility of the new technology was demonstrated by Carly Tillery. She produced a short video on her iPad, using the camera and splicing movie scenes together and adding music to make a short and scary video.
Sophomore Collin Edwards said he believes it has made him a better student. At least he has access to everything he needs when sitting on the couch at home.
And if he misses a day of school his assignments are dispatched directly to his iPad and he can just as easily send his previous assignments to his teacher.
“I think we’ve saved at least 1,500 sheets of paper so far this year,” Spade said.
Most of the student worksheets are downloaded to their iPads where they can write with a stylus or use a pop-up keyboard.
Some of the more obvious advantages for teachers is the ability to track and grade students’ work — the teacher’s remarks are in red — and communicate with students when they are not in school.
Spade had an unplanned trip to the dentist recenty and her students received a video on their iPad from her. It was a cartoon character but the voice was hers. Although she was unable to be in the classroom they received direct instructions from her as to what their assignments were and what she expected them to do.
Spade is in her 11th year of teaching at Valley Falls. This year she also teaches health, computer tech., and physical education.
The iPad is useful in most of her classes, even PE.
“There’s an exercise app with various timed programs. Then you can put your finger over the camera lense and it will read your pulse,” she said.
Spade believes the iPads have made a marked difference in improving some students’ grades.
“Especially a student or two who were not getting particularly good grades are now doing much better. I think it’s this new technology that’s helping them be more connected,” she said.
Principal Susan Grey and her assistant, Mark Lamb, believe the addition of iPads has been a positive step and they are proud that Valley Falls has been able to provide them.
“I think students are more engaged in their studies and I’m sure it has helped improve a few grades,” Grey said. “We don’t have any statistics to verify that one way or the other.”
Lamb noted that a student is more aware of their progress and not only have their grades on their iPads, but can check their attendance and tardiness records as well. He also believes having more resources available helps students delve further into a subject and gain more indepth knowledge.
There are certain rules that go along with the new technology and the school has put in place policies to be followed.
Grey said these are mostly for the safety of the students and to make them aware of certain things such as plagerism.
Students are also trusting and the school wants them to be aware that someone on the Internet making certain claims is not necessarily on the up and up, Lamb said.
All students in grades 7 through 12 have access to an iPad. There are two carts loaded with iPads that circulate in the elementary grades for those teachers to share.
Serving on the technology committee that advises the school board on 21st century learning are Cheryl Brosa, Trista Gish, Cary Brosa, Loren Feldkamp, Susan Grey, Mark Lamb, and Spade.
The entire staff has been learning about new teaching tools and styles.
“We have a great staff that works hard to keep up with all the new ways to learn and to prepare students to go out into our global technological world,” Spade said.
Short URL: http://www.jeffcountynews.com/?p=14820