Technology in the classroom
By Pixie Sulser
Years ago movies and television shows depicted classrooms of the future as a place where students interacted with their lessons via a computer. Teachers in front of the classroom were a thing of the past as students received instruction from a computer program and responded in kind.
That futuristic media view is part of today’s educational reality, but the devices are being used to supplement and support education in the classroom rather than replace the human element.
In six different classrooms across the Ramona Unified School District, students are experiencing the application of mobile technology as a tool for problem solving and application in their daily work. Randy Schimpf‘s fourth-graders at Barnett Elementary, Leslie Wilson‘s sixth-graders at Mt. Woodson, the Ramona High School math classes of Cori McDonald and the Montecito students of Christine Hill are all piloting the ,use of the Apple iPad II. Each classroom is equipped with an iPad II for every student.
Two teachers at Hanson Elementary, Sherry Torpin and Teri Burns, are also piloting educational support through mobile technology with the use of iPod Touches. Both classrooms have an iPod Touch for each of their students.
The two iPad pilots at the elementary level (Barnett and Mt. Woodson) are funded by the district through “a
very restrictive budget source, Economic Impact Aid Funding,” explained RUSD Superintendent, Dr. Bob Graeff. “Montecito, Ramona High and Hanson Elementary are funding their own pilots via their federal after school grants.
“We (RUSD) are trying to begin moving toward the teaching of 21st Century skills. Some of these skills include what are becoming known as the Four Cs -— communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Another component is the inclusion of mobile technology as a way to improve student achievement and for teaching important new skills for the very survival of our local students in the future.”
Because of the cost involved in the devices themselves, “pilots are few,” Graeff continued. “As we learn more from the pilot programs, however, we are hoping that important learning can be achieved and that we can excite the local community to support and
expand this effort in the future.”
“The whole process of setting up the use of the iPad II to support instruction has been exciting and terrifying at the same time,” shared McDonald. “I’m excited at the opportunity for students, but the logistics are a little frightening! Things like passing out the iPads and collecting them, introducing new applications and then getting everyone on the same application at the same time, especially since the students have to set up a log-in for each new application, are a few of the kinks we are working out.”
Wilson at Mt. Woodson Elementary also spoke of challenging logistical issues and added that, “While the iPads are amazing and have this incredible power to engage,“ the real focus for making the pilot a successful program is realizing that “technology itself does not make miracles happen…but the change in
the mindset and instruction that is prompted through the use and engagement in technology produces real results.”
“The students are much more apt to get completely involved in learning that they find interesting and fun,” said McDonald. “It’s great to see the kids looking for and sharing applications that support the math objectives we are working on in the classroom. It will be interesting when we analyze the effect of the pilot through overall grades and standardized test scores.”
“We really like the iPads,” said ninth-graders Tammy Angel and Rita Harmaz, students in McDonald’s math class. “It’s a fun way to learn and to get extra practice with what we are studying in class.”
Wilson’s sixth-grade students are using the iPads to read books, build reading fluency, take notes and study
for tests as well as re-enforce math and vocabulary development.
“Currently, one of the applications they are using is Pages in which they are creating a book about ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Kush,” said Wilson. “These books will be published and shared through iBooks so that all students will be able to read the work of other groups.
“Their learning is reaching much farther than any of the textbooks that I can offer them in my classroom.”
Torpin and Burns at Hanson Elementary do not see themselves as “techies.”
“It’s been a big learning experience for the two of us,” said Torpin. “We have had to do a lot of outside learning in order to be able to make the best use of the iPod Touches in our classrooms.”
Torpin and Burns have “synched free applications in math, phonemic awareness, reading books, memory activities, and sight word flashcards” to the classroom iPod Touches.
“Every day the students ask when are we going to use the iPods,” said Torpin. “They are so excited! They think they are playing games, but they are really learning.”
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