Schools incorporate iPad technology
Date: 12/19/2011Dec. 19, 2011
By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW Longmeadow Public Schools have continued to focus on exploring ways to incorporate modern technology into the classroom this year, with the new iPad program being one of the most popular initiatives for students and teachers alike.
Williams Middle School Principal Christopher Collins noted his school is one school that has embraced the idea wholeheartedly.
“The staff has gone forward with this full bore. The cart is checked out almost every period,” he said. “The iPads aren’t being used just by science and math teachers, but rather, they’re being incorporated across all disciplines, including foreign language, art and music.”
Collins’ school received one of nine carts equipped with 25 iPads that have been distributed throughout the district to schools at every grade level. The district purchased the iPads in the summer through a combination of district funds and grants from the Longmeadow Educational Endowment Fund (LEEF).
“LEEF has been such a great ally for us and was instrumental in providing this program for the Center and Wolf Swamp schools,” Superintendent Marie Doyle said.
Collins and Doyle explained that in an age when children are using more and more technology at home, it only makes sense to incorporate that same equipment in order to engage them in the classroom and maximize learning.
“A lot of the practices in the way we taught 20 years ago just don’t work now,” he said. “But you walk into a classroom where iPads are being used and every kid is fully engaged.”
Doyle said studies on retention have shown that interactive learning yields much better results and in traditional lecture classes, a student’s ability to absorb new information it capped at roughly 15 minutes.
In the first weeks of school, teachers were asked to sign out an iPad to get used to it before they were distributed to the schools around Nov. 1. While the use of the iPads was strictly voluntary, a large portion of the Williams staff jumped on board.
“The staff was really getting engaged with the program right from the start,” Collins said. “The first six weeks they really invested themselves in it.”
Since then, the staff at Williams has developed specific portions of their curriculum to incorporate the tablet technology.
“In order for a teacher to sign out the cart, they have to develop a lesson plan involving the iPads,” Collins explained. “In order for their use to be really effective, there needs to be a focused lesson plan.”
Doyle explained that she recently observed a middle school science class performing frog dissections digitally with the iPads.
“It was very interesting because it was completely interactive,” she said. “The students could rotate the frog any way they wanted and even move specific organs to explore the inner workings.”
Williams has also teamed up with a group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be a test school for a new program called Socrative Garden.
The software, which the school has received free of charge in exchange for feedback on the effectiveness of the product, allows teachers to perform reviews and tests through a system that links all of the iPads and produces instant feedback to teachers.
“Many teachers use this technology for pre-test quizzes,” Collins said. “The teachers can instantly see what questions students answered correctly and which ones the majority of students still struggle with, so they automatically know what areas they should focus on as they continue to review.”
Reminder Publications was afforded the opportunity to see this program in action in Spanish teacher Anna Gelinas’ class.
Each student, with their assigned iPad, signed into a virtual classroom Gelinas had created with Socrative Garden, which was also projected on the white board at the front of the room. As students took a self-paced test, Gelinas could see how far each student, identified by number, was in the test, then later shared the class’ cumulative results.
Collins said he hoped to add a second iPad cart in the future due to the strong positive feedback he has received from students and staff.
“We’re working with the parents to possibly come up with a second cart for next year,” he said, adding he realized the budget constraints the town has, which prompted the school to look to the Parent Teacher Organization for fund-raising help.
Doyle said that while the limitations exist, the district wishes to continue making technology more and more accessible in the classroom.
“Our long term goal is to have one-to-one student to computer ratio in our schools,” she said.