Earlier this year teachers at the Haviland’s elementary and middle school began integrating Apple iPads into their lessons. USD 474 Superintendent Mike Couch says the ultra-flat handheld computer tablets are a necessity as education and workforce needs shift towards technology.
“Last year the school board decided to focus on three things; character development, critical thinking and technology,” said Couch. “They wanted to make sure we were giving our kids the best of those things and maybe excel in those areas. We felt that our middle school kids weren’t getting the opportunities that maybe they needed, especially considering where technology is heading.”
The school board purchased 60 iPads through Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) funding, an education grant through the U.S. Department of Education that assists rural schools with curriculum needs.
Couch said that the iPads would be funded “ninety to one hundred percent” through the grant funds, although he said that some peripheral expenses, software and accessories, could come out of the district’s capital outlay fund.
He also said the school was using third party marketplaces like Amazon.com to keep additional costs down.
The school purchased iPad cases for $7 through the internet marketplace, where typically they would cost $25-$30 through traditional vendors.
Kindergarten through third grade kids have stations in their classrooms to use them during lessons. Fourth grade through sixth grade students share a small number and the seventh and eighth grade students get their own individual iPad to use during class time.
Students do not bring their iPads home with them.
Faculty have adapted old lessons and created new lessons around the new devices.
Laura Chadd, who teaches middle school math was supervising a fifth grade math lesson. Students were using their iPads to solve math problems. After completing a division problem, they were using posted QR codes to check their answers.
QR codes are similar to barcodes, and hold a wide variety of information. They are small squares made up of smaller black and white cubes.
“They know more than I do,” said Chadd. “I had to go to a two-day workshop, but they learned it in no time. I just had to get them started on the basics of how programs work and they’re off.”
Chadd said she sees a future that uses technology more and “paper and pencil” less.
“I love it. I love technology,” she said. “There are challenges, but I’m great with it. It’s so much more motivating for them. Those boring division problems become fun. I can’t say we won’t do paper and pencil work anymore, but we’re going to do whatever works.”
Page 2 of 2 - Couch said that the faculty has been receptive and many have attended additional training to learn how to use the tablet computers properly.
“We’re blessed to have a staff that recognizes the importance of that technology for the kids,” he said. “As professionals it is our duty to adapt. I think everyone on staff was on board for that. The demands of the classroom teacher are immense. Each grade has certain demands. We tell the teachers, ‘you have this year to move at your own pace.’”
With quarterly check ups and benchmarks, Couch said almost all of the teachers are meeting expectations.
“The kids are taking to the technology,” he added. “A lot of the time they are learning things before you can teach it to them. That’s what we are seeing. We also want to insure that it is an educational tool for the child. It’s important to introduce them to the technology, but it’s important for them to learn.”