Photo by Wendy Wilson
Fifth grade student Will Modjeski, 10, enjoys incorporating his new iPad into learning at WACS.
As the latest technology leaps into the hands of the youngest generation, fifth and sixth graders at Winona Area Catholic Schools are jumping on board.
The captivating, latest craze has captured their attention – the iPad. Not only is it fun, boasting multiple capabilities, it has educational value as a learning tool as well.
Technology in the classroom
More than 100 iPads have sailed into classrooms in recent weeks. Two fifth and two sixth grade classes are regularly using the devices. Students received training in early October.
And teachers are readily making room for them in their lesson plans.
“They are kind of incorporating the iPad naturally into their day,” said Art Educator Jody Berhow. “It’s just so casual now.”
Fifth grade teacher Deedee Nadeau said the iPads are being used for everything from reading to social studies.
Students recently learned how to use the iPad camera, shooting photos, cropping and editing.
“The camera is a really neat tool,” Nadeau said.
Photos can even be flicked from one iPad to another.
For reading lessons, the students use the Wikipanion application (app). During a lesson studying wolf behavior, with just a couple taps on the iPads – voilŕ – a chorus of howls filled the classroom.
“We had a whole pack of wolves going,” Nadeau said. “That is just really cool.”
An Audubon app showed students where owls prey and provided information about their habitat as well as the sound of their call.
“It helps you learn in a [more] fun way than using the textbook,” said fifth grade student Will Modjeski, 10, looking up from a colorful photo of an owl.
The iPads also include apps for the weather, newspaper, music, and a dictionary as well as Word and Excel software.
“We have some neat math apps,” Nadeau said. “To [the students], it is so enticing.”
It also contains an iBook library.
“It’s like a book,” Nadeau said.
But it is much more.
Clicking on a word brings up a dictionary that explains its meaning.
Easy to use
How are the teachers adjusting to the new technology?
“I am a huge iPad fan,” Nadeau said. “I felt really comfortable with it myself.”
Berhow said she has been teaching 25 years and has not found using the iPad difficult. Teachers received special training to operate the devices.
“It is just so easy,” Berhow said. “It really changes the climate in the classroom.”
Berhow uses the devices as a motivational tool for younger students, allowing them to earn time on the iPad when they follow instructions.
About $10,000 has been raised to bring iPod Touches into the schools, according to Berhow. They are like the iPad, but smaller in size.
Music instructor Julie Olstad uses the iPads regularly in her lesson plans.
Apps for note identification on the base and treble clefs and for interactive games bring music right to students’ fingertips. They can also hear music made across the globe.
“They are able to explore creativity,” Olstad said.
A piano app includes a keyboard on the screen that students can play.
“They can actually compose their own music and record it,” she said.
Sixth grade teacher Suzanne Ubl was equally impressed with the technology.
“A lot of it is so easy to use, we just had them go and explore,” she said of the iPad’s classroom introduction. “It has mainstreamed right into our curriculum.”
The iPads are kept on a shelf in the classrooms and students must receive permission to use them.
“They have been very responsible,” Ubl said. “It is not a distraction.”
Teachers are able to log into a website as “coaches” to monitor students’ progress.
Ubl said the new technology will help students who are struggling in some areas as well as those learning at an accelerated level.
“It’s going to affect all students,” she said, “enhancing their learning experience.”
Students are provided with strict guidelines for usage.
“This is a school tool,” said Technology Coordinator Cathy Streiff. “They are not a toy.”
The iPads were fairly simple to configure, according to Streiff, and she has not found any problems to date.
She was optimistic about the iPad’s potential.
“I think it is going to be a great learning tool for the kids,” she said. “They are very engaged in what is going on in class. When you can get a student engaged in English, that’s a good thing.”