Baldwin-Whitehall debuts iPad program
Jeremy Tuskin quickly finished his math lesson Monday so he could “play a game” on one of the iPads stacked neatly in the back of the classroom.
His classmates reminded him it actually was another way to learn fractions, using real-life examples of ordering a pizza.
“It's both learning and playing. They teach you things. It's good,” fourth-grader Ian Dusch, 9, said.
All 73 elementary school classrooms in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District this school year received five classroom iPad tablet computers for student use and one teacher iPad. The district purchased 510 fourth-generation 16 GB iPads for $192,190.
Of those tablets, 365 were placed into the elementary classrooms. Others were put on carts at J.E. Harrison Middle School and Baldwin High School, said Janeen Peretin, director of information and instructional technology.
In the past, elementary teachers had access only to small laptop computers or schoolwide computer labs.
The concept of using iPads in the classroom tested successfully in a pilot program in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years with two elementary classrooms, leaders said.
The program looked at how they could use new technology in their classroom, said Whitehall Elementary second-grade teacher Sally Larson, who participated in the tryout program.
“We really didn't want them to be a game,” she said.
All school buildings were converted to wireless this summer, Peretin said, and all elementary teachers first were trained on how to use the iPads in October.
The iPads were given to teachers with some educational apps already loaded, but the teachers were able to download their own, as well, Peretin said. The iPads also are used for student monitoring and reading-comprehension tests.
Some teachers use apps that allow students to read aloud to themselves and record it to see how they sound. There are grammar and even behavior-monitoring apps that allows teachers to rate students on their actions that day, said Larson, who uses iPads daily in her classroom.
Parents can follow along at home.
“The parents can go online and say, ‘Hey, little Johnny, you were off task five times today. What's going on?'” she said.
The students are excited to use the iPads in class, Whitehall Elementary fourth-grade math teacher Melissa Hoffman said.
Hoffman has used the iPads to have students make videos of themselves performing skits that take them through the steps of solving a math problem.
About half of her students have some kind of tablet at home.
“It allows them to get a little more excited about some things,” she said.
With five iPads, the teachers often rotate them among students and typically have them work with the iPads in teams. That teaches the students teamwork, McAnnulty Elementary first-grade teacher Melissa Anderson said.
“It's become a valuable tool,” Anderson said.
If a teacher needs enough iPads for the whole classroom that day, they borrow from colleagues, Hoffman said.
Still, the use of iPads needs to be perfected. Teachers typically use free apps, they said, but often run into a problem when the trial period ends.
“I like school better with iPads,” said fourth-grader Carson Gregg, 10.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or [email protected].