On Feb. 18, iPads will be handed out to every teacher in the district, according to Mischel Miller, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education. Miller told the USD 443 Board of Education on Monday that while teachers need to integrate technology into the curriculum, there’s work to be done before that can take place.
Training is instrumental to the success of the iPad initiative and an extensive amount of training is planned, from the teachers, to the technology department. The Vanguard group, a group of 20 experienced iPad teachers, is scheduled for some advanced training at the end of the month.
“We hope to be able to use that group, in addition to the pilot teachers, to create groups with differentiated levels of professional development,” Miller said. “They will be taking a strong lead in helping to train other teachers.”
In addition, Apple is working to provide the district with a survey so teachers can evaluate their own level of understanding with the technology. In order to accommodate teachers at every stage in the learning process, Miller said there are three different levels of professional development going on within the district
“The group of pilot teachers [who used the technology this fall] are familiar with it so now they want to dig deeper and see where they can take it,” she said.
An additional 24 new teachers started piloting the iPads in their classrooms when classes resumed in January. Eight to ten classes are experimenting with the one-to-one approach, with every student having access to an iPad all day long – something the district hopes will be a reality in every classroom by 2014.
“That allows us to review and analyze the ways we can increase creativity and productivity in the classroom before we put one in the hands of all of our students,” Miller explained.
Board member Jeff Hiers said he’d like to see a plan in place for how the district is going to handle deploying 6000 iPads. Superintendent Alan Cunningham said it will be different for each age group.
“I’m really excited about what’s transpiring,” Hiers added. “But is there a danger in relying on technology and not that one-to-one contact?”
According to Miller, that teacher/student contact isn’t being replaced by iPads.
“If you go into any of the classrooms using this technology, you’re still hearing students and teachers talking,” she said. “It’s just a different type of conversation.”
Lori Amaro, a fifth-grade teacher at Sunnyside Elementary, uses the iPads in her classroom and shared her use of the application, “Edmodo,” with the board.
Page 2 of 2 - “It’s a really great way for my students to access and complete assignments without having to write everything down on a whiteboard for them,” she said. Students can comment on assignments and ask me questions without having to do so in front of their peers, where they might be embarrassed.”
Amaro can grade the assignments in the application and then export everything to Skyward, the administrative software the district uses.
“It’s definitely reduced the amount of paper I use in the classroom,” she said.
In addition, she can connect with Google Docs and access resources from teachers all over the world.
“It helps to make my students’ learning just a little bit less confusing and easier to access,” Amaro said.
Sharon Cummins, third-grade teacher at Linn Elementary, shared another application called “Book Creator,” with the board. Cummins used it in her classroom as student put together a research project on animals. She showed the students how to do online research, in addition to using books from the library. Cummins said students worked on putting stories in their own words and importing images. They read the finished product to classmates through Air Server, an application that students to display content to a projector.
“The class helped them decide if they used correct punctuation, sentence structure, and spelling,” she said.
Cummins said the application makes it much easier to figure out which students need additional work; but there are benefits for her as a teacher, as well.
“The new technology has really invigorated my teaching,” she said. “I’ve been a teacher for 26 years and you can get in a rut; but using the iPad technology is really a challenge and I like that challenge. “