As seen in the Nov. 26 issue
Dani Klemes, web editor-in-chief
After writing and submitting a proposal to the school board, Hawthorne was chosen as the pilot school for the iPad program beginning this year, which features a one-on-one implementation of iPads in selected elementary classrooms.
Hawthorne, which has had shared iPads on campus for the past two years, piloted the program to move toward a paperless classroom and increase access to technology throughout the school day.
“We spent a lot of time planning and did a slow roll out, so there were very few glitches,” Hawthorne Principal Kathy Schaeffer said. “Our main goal was to prepare for interactive textbook adoptions and improve collaborative work with Skype and shared documents. Overall, we want to increase the students’ interest in the subject matter.”
The program involves six elementary school teachers, ranging from kindergarten teachers to fourth-grade teachers. Schaeffer believes the new technology has greatly improved the quality of projects and the speed at which assignments are completed.
“Anything new is always exciting,” Schaeffer said. “The research process is much faster, allowing students to spend more time developing their actual projects. There is also a lot more creativity in a Keynote project as opposed to an old-fashioned poster project.”
According to fourth-grade teacher Ellen Poltorak, the program has promoted student engagement and has resulted in greater student interactivity and efficiency in activities.
“The level of student engagement has increased. Students would prefer to look up the spelling of a word on dictionary.com rather than in a book dictionary,” Poltorak said. “It is more efficient and students are spelling more words correctly in their final drafts.”
In addition, Poltorak claims that certain applications, such as the ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard app, have saved class time and have progressed Hawthorne toward an eco-friendly campus.
“Students are more engaged when using a digital whiteboard rather than an actual whiteboard, eraser and marker,” Poltorak said. “We can get more done in the same amount of time and we have also saved paper. Most recently students published five paragraph essays on the Pages app, then digitally submitted them to me through the Edmodo app. I corrected them online and reported their scores to them digitally. No paper was used!”
As technology advances, teachers continuously look for ways to transform their teaching standards to fit the rapidly changing trends.
First-grade teacher Anita Naiman works to blend various teaching methods together in order to promote the most efficient learning environment for her students.
“I am not sure there is a standard way of teaching anymore. Teachers use numerous tools to educate their students–we use crayons, pencils, books, CDs, computers, videos and iPads. I am motivated to create meaningful lessons that utilize the power of the iPad,” Naiman said.
Besides improving efficiency and interactivity at Hawthorne, the program has had some setbacks, including shaky internet access.
“We need to increase the school network capability in a couple of areas because signals don’t travel well through our very thick brick walls,” Schaeffer said.
Kindergarten teacher Gena Schmidt agrees with Schaeffer about connectivity issues and also believes that heavy research is required in order to make the best use of the iPads.
“There are so many apps to choose from. Spending time and researching what would be the best use of the kids’ time and the school’s money is challenging,” Schmidt said. “Also, there are days when I want to show a great video clip about something we’re learning about, but I can’t get the internet to work or the content is blocked.”
The iPad program is still in its beginning stages, so these issues are no surprise to teachers and administrators. Faculty is currently working on troubleshooting these minor problems and staying up to date with advancing programs.
“It’s all very exciting and a little scary to try to keep up with this rapidly changing technology,” Schmidt said.
The implementation of electronic devices in classrooms is no new feat. Computers, projectors and televisions have been present on campuses for decades now.
The main attribution of the iPad program, though, is its emphasis on adjusting to new technology as it becomes more available and user-friendly.
“Technology has been in the schools for the last 30 years in some form,” Naiman said. “We need to adapt to the current trends in technology in order for our students to be prepared for their future.”