It’s hard to imagine only 40 years ago the Internet had developed for commercial use. Consumer computers slowly became household necessities across the United States. Today, more than 75 percent of Americans own a computer. And with technology constantly upgrading, bulky personal computers are quickly becoming obsolete. Desktops are being replaced by thin laptops, electronic tablets and even smarter smart phones. E-readers and iPads are becoming commonplace at corporate and educational levels. To stay ahead of the current learning curve, teachers at St. Stanislaus Middle School in Winona incorporated recent technologies into their curriculum, giving each 5th and 6th grade student an iPad.
Students in Suzanne Ubl’s 6th grade science class are presenting their science fair projects this week. But instead of setting up the familiar tri-fold board in the gymnasium, students are connecting their new iPads to the class Smart Board. They are presenting everything from the science behind magnets to bean germination, all from the comfort of their classroom.
“It’s so different than anything else and they are using 21st century learning techniques,” art teacher Jody Berhow said. “It’s cool that we can use these iPads and give students a different learning viewpoint.”
Ubl’s students received the Apple tablets at the beginning of the school year and have mastered the touch screen technology. Samuel Graff, 12, effortlessly moved from one Keynote slide to another as he presented his science project on how the day of the week affects a person’s mood. Graff said through the research he conducted using his iPad, he was able to learn about the psychology of moods and intricate workings of the human brain.
“They are researching their own projects and really doing a lot of work for their experiments,” Ubl said. “It’s amazing the number of things they can learn using these devices.”
The interactive, new way of learning allows the student to actively engage in the course material, Ubl said, and fosters group discussions and student-to-student encounters.
“Sometimes they correct me when I’m working with the iPad on the Smart Board,” Ubl said. “And they help each other out with the [applications]. They aren’t acting proud but will share their knowledge of the device with other students. They can just pick up the technology like that.”
Students in today’s classroom are growing up in the digital age and soon will surpass their parent’s knowledge of emerging technology. St. Stanislaus 6th grader Cade Hansen, 11, said his parents are taking tips from him.
“Sometimes my mom tries to take a picture on the iPad but she doesn’t find the right button right away,” Hansen said. “But she is getting better.”
Keeping children focused on the studies in the classroom is a key factor in the success of iPads in schools. Downloading educational applications like iBook brings required novels to life in new ways.
“I really like the English and math and reading apps,” Ben Herber, 12, said. “We just finished reading ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ on the iBook app.”
Students are also becoming more environmentally aware with the use of the iPad, and papers and projects are now electronically submitted instead of printed.
“We normally print all the project information out and hand it in,” Ubl said. “But that was always such a waste of paper. We now have the students e-mail them the morning before their presentation and we just turn it into a PDF.”
Berhow said the students aren’t afraid of the new technology and students are positively responding to the new, efficient style of learning.
“It’s a more hands on kind of learning, I think,” Herber said. “Teachers don’t have to get all their things out to teach a lesson. They just tell us to turn on our iPads.”
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Hansen said. “I wish I could keep it at the end of the year.”