iPads in the classroom allow more creativity, teachers say

Learning tools

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A fifth-grader in the iPad pilot program shows Washougal School District Superintendent Dawn Tarzian some of what she learned using her tablet this past year. The district has decided to expand the pilot to include all fifth-and sixth-graders next year.

After a year of using iPads, student absences and tardies have significantly decreased, and students are more engaged in learning.These results come from a fifth-grade iPad pilot program in the Washougal School District. At the start of the school year, students in three classrooms were given an iPad to see how it would impact learning.

“Both students and teachers in the iPad pilot report high levels of interest in continuing the pilot, and look forward to showcasing the student projects and learning that have taken place throughout the year,” said Les Brown, technology director.

Results from the pilot group show unexcused absences to be nearly half of those who did not have the devices in the classroom. In addition, excused absences are 34 percent lower and tardies are about 30 percent lower.

“This translates into more students being at school and ready when school starts,” Brown said.

In addition, students and teachers in the pilot have spoken very positively about the iPads.

In light of the results, the district has decided to purchase iPads for all fifth- and sixth-grade students for the 2013-14 school year, for a cost of $240,000.

The money will come from the technology levy and curriculum reserve funds.

Another purchase will be made for the 2014-15 school year to provide iPads for seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Recently, several students and teachers came to a School Board meeting to show what they had learned.

“I was very excited to participate in this program,” said Chelsea Meats, fifth-grade teacher at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary. “I had never had an iPad before and when I started using it in the classroom, I quickly discovered it was more than just apps. It is a learning tool to facilitate conversations.”

She also noted that using the iPads had significantly decreased the amount of time it took for students to complete classroom research projects.

“A project that would have taken 30 days before in the computer lab took two days,” she said. “With the iPads, I have gone deeper into subjects and the students have looked at them on more of a global scale. We have more time because we’re not spending all of it in a computer lab, sharing a computer and spending the whole time researching.”

Stephanie Closson, a special education teacher at the school, said she really enjoyed the “speak” feature on the iPad.

“I have a student with a reading disability, and while he was researching his science fair project, he could highlight words he couldn’t understand and it would read the words to him,” she said. “It meant less teacher and parent assistance, and more independence.”

Consuelo Martinez, a fifth-grader at Hathaway Elementary, said her favorite app was “Lobster Diver,” which helped her learn math.

“Math was my lowest grade, and now I’m getting good grades,” she said.

Matinez also enjoyed the Keynote app, which helps organize presentations.

Her mom, Lissa Martinez, said the iPad helps her daughter be even more interested in school.

“It’s awesome because she has always enjoyed it, but now is even more excited to go,” she said. “The cost of books for schools is very expensive. The iPad is a one-time expense and there is so much you can do with it.”

Brown said he is excited to expand the pilot to all fifth- and sixth-graders.

“It’s had a real positive impact,“ he said. “There is lots of peer teaching and learning that goes on with the iPads, so students in the pilot will be able to help those who haven’t used the device before.” Elaine Pfeifer, school board member, noted that iPads are helping students become more actively engaged in learning.

“I am really excited that we are teaching to the future of learning,” she said.