Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fifth grade classrooms pilot iPad project

This fall, Washougal fifth graders began piloting an exciting project using iPads in their classrooms. Three classrooms (one at each elementary school) plus a group of special education students are taking part in this technology integration experiment into subjects including Science, Social Science and Language Arts.

In preparation for an all-new teaching and learning model, teachers Chelsea Meats, Erin Hayes, Erin Maier and Stephanie Closson received an intensive “boot camp” training over the summer and will continue to receive training and support throughout the year.

Classroom use varies by class and subject, depending on what students are studying at a given time. Teachers work with students to use iPad features, such as text-to-speech and built in word definitions and dictionaries that help students answer questions immediately. These tools have been particularly helpful for struggling learners and also help bridge the achievement gap between student groups. When asked the question, "How has the iPad changed the way you learn?" one student responded "We can do class activities together where we're all on the same website instead of just using one computer or having to share a few computers."

In Erin Maier’s class at Gause Elementary, students used the iPads to film themselves presenting to their peers. The students could then immediately review their work and answer questions such as “Did I speak clearly?” “That was huge in terms of helping them explain their thinking,” said Maier. “Hearing themselves speak helps with clarity of thought.”

Technology Director Les Brown says the project opens doors to new resources. “Technology can engage students in meaningful learning experiences where they research topics they are interested in, receive and give peer feedback, and carry their work through to completion or publication.”

Parents were included in the roll out process, with meetings were held at each school to define expectations and explain what the district hopes to gain through the project.

Curriculum Director David Tudor hopes the pilot will significantly impact student learning based on the experiences of other districts. “We anticipate seeing increases in student achievement particularly in Reading and Math, and especially among struggling students,” he said. “We’re hoping to see gains for special education students and students below grade level in reading.  We anticipate seeing lower attendance problems, fewer discipline referrals, and increased time on task.” 

Maier says the devices have increase motivation and engagement in her classroom. “When we use the iPads, I automatically have 100 percent participation. This is their world and they are quick learners.”

District staff will measure the project’s success by comparing test score data between iPad and non-iPad classrooms to gauge the impact on student academic achievement.  Staff will also consider data on student attendance, discipline, and surveys on student/family perceptions about technology.