The Mineola Board of Education changed the site of their workshop meeting Thursday night to the so they could observe a class of fifth graders working on their iPads.
The Apple-branded devices are part of a to move more technology into the classroom. Many of the students were “showing off some of their knowledge and some of the things they learned,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said. “You can tell what they do at home I guess because they’re hanging out and working on their iPads.”
The district launched the iPad project this past July, two months after the devices first came out. “We had, just a really wonderful set of professional development activities together,” Jackson Avenue school principal Matthew Gavin said.
Before the start of the school year, teachers met with both Apple representatives and amongst themselves to discuss “how can we use this device to enhance our students’ learning and enhance their opportunities at school every day?” Gavin said. Teachers came back and essentially “revamped the fifth grade,” working in two sets of two teams with partners, similar to the middle school structure.
“Everyone taught English Language Arts, one of the two teachers would teach math, the other teacher would teach social studies and science and the students switched class,” Gavin said.
One class period was designated as having no pullout sheets and called “iPad exploration period,” allowing teachers to discover ways of integrating the device into the curriculum.
“The whole basis of this was really to create 21st century learning,” Gavin said. “we want students that are creative, that they’re collaborative, they communicate with each other and they are engaged all day long with critical thinking activities.”
Students were given the wifi enabled devices in September, allowed to use them and write about their experiences and how they might be used in school. Meanwhile the district began exploring different applications – “apps” – and using them to conduct research projects. The second phase was to enable filesharing and communication using in-district e-mail for each student, which can only receive e-mails from other Mineola school addresses.
“They can’t get spam, they can only get work related e-mails,” Gavin said.
Teachers can ask questions over e-mail which the students learned how to use reading and writing on the iPad using iBooks and bundled writing software. Classes also created a “wiki” – a series of editable articles – as part of a project on pioneers, allowing students to collaborate, change and comment on each other’s pages.
“(At) eight o’clock in the morning students are doing homework on the first day of vacation,” Gavin said.
Internet access was an issue at one point because the devices are wifi only and not every home was equipped with wireless internet, but Gavin said this has became less problematic since more parents have installed wifi in their homes.
The third phase is the use of “responseware” where iPads allow teachers to see real-time responses to questions posed in class. “(We) just got that last week,” Gavin said of the software he believes “has the ability to change in the classroom the direction of the lesson to meet the needs of the students.”
According to student surveys, 50 percent of students found writing more interesting and 66 percent of students found reading more interesting when using iPads.
“That level of engagement... was amplified just by the medium of the iPad itself,” Gavin said, adding that there were no student accidents were reported with the iPads, indicating the students are exercising more responsibility with the devices.
Parents are also seeing a difference as 87 percent characterized themselves as more interested in what their children were learning in school.
“Pretty much the majority of our parents have seen their students doing work at home using the iPad,” Gavin said, pointing out that over 90 percent of parents want the program to expand to sixth grade.
“Every one of them was asked if they wanted to keep the iPad through sixth (grade), they said yes, they wanted to keep it through high school,” Board President Terence Hale said.
Surrounding district have also become interested in using iPads in their classrooms as Herricks, North Shore, St. Aiden’s and Garden City have either visited or have asked to visit for demonstrations.
“We’re very proud of the visitations, not a lot of people are doing this, very very few are doing it in fifth grade,” Dr. Nagler said.