Bringing the world to their classroom

Fifth-graders participate in an iPad pilot program

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Hathaway Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Erin Hayes assists Consuelo Martinez with a research question. The students in Hayes' class are part of a district-wide iPad pilot group. "The use of technology increases my ability to meet the individual needs of each student," she said.

When teacher Erin Hayes first told her students they’d be using iPads in class, the general response from the fifth-graders was, “What’s an iPad?”

Two months later, the students are becoming experts in using apps, doing Internet research and using the devices as a resource for a majority of their class work.

“The iPads extend learning in every subject,” Hayes said. “They have apps for math, spelling, writing, everything. (The students) are recording themselves to practice public speaking, they are using Google Earth to take virtual field trips of the locations they’re studying, and they are interacting with each other to discuss new ways to create projects and solve problems.”

Hayes’ Hathaway Elementary School class is part of the Washougal School District’s iPad pilot program. The purpose is to determine whether the devices help increase student learning, and decrease discipline and attendance problems.

“Starting at the fifth-grade gives us a great opportunity to structure a comparison study between the iPad classrooms and the classes without them, since they have relatively little mixing of students at this grade level,” said Lester Brown, district technology director. “We were also interested in involving students and staff from a variety of our schools, and fifth-grade gives us the opportunity to create a cadre of teachers and students in three schools that have experience with iPads.”

The district will also study whether the use of iPads in fifth-grade, and subsequently in sixth-grade, helps ease the transition from elementary to secondary education.

At the end of the 2013 school year, the pilot program will be evaluated to determine whether it should continue.

Teachers participating in the pilot include Hayes, Erin Maier at Gause Elementary, and Chelsea Meats and Stephanie Closson at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary.

Before receiving the devices, teachers received three days of training, two of which were provided by an Apple instructor.

They will also attend another training in December, and work together in a support group to share ideas.

Students received a series of lessons on how to use the iPads and continue learning new applications.

The district purchased 90 iPads for the students for $479 each, plus $99 for an accidental damage and extended warranty. Teacher devices were approximately $30 more per iPad because they didn’t receive the group discount. To keep the devices safe, each one is locked up at night and inventoried. If the iPad is lost or stolen, the person responsible is charged a $50 deductible to replace it.

“Luckily, after two months of daily use, we have had no damages,” Hayes said. “The students are very aware of the value of their iPad.”

Fifth-grader Jordyn Johnson said the iPads are “much better” than using paper and pencil for class assignments.

“It’s a privilege,” she said. “And it doesn’t clutter up the desk because we have all of our information in there instead of lots of books. It’s all in one place.”

Hailey Maddix agreed.

“It really helps me to focus a lot better,” she said. “People pay attention when it’s something they can play on. It’s a lot easier to get your work done because you don’t have to open books and it doesn’t clutter your desk.”

Nathan Farra said it has helped him with concentration.

“It’s easier because students are using the iPads the whole time they are working on something,” he said. “It really helps a lot with research.”