Susan Chandler, the system’s technology coordinator, and Beth Kennedy, the district’s new technology integration specialist, explained some new features and websites they will be using this fall when students return to the classroom.
At the city school board meeting held last Monday, Chandler gave a presentation to Superintendent Robert Sparkman, board members and those in the audience.
“With our iPad initiative, of course, it’s always a challenge with security and what we can do with security. I told the board members that Apple has released new security features, meaning that the profiles that lock down an iPad — like turning the camera on and off, if they can FaceTime or if they can’t FaceTime, if they can go to the app store or not go to the app store — Apple has given us control of,” Chandler said. “Well, they gave us control of it last fall, but the profiles could be deleted by students and it took them about one minute to figure that out. ... We basically demonstrated [at the meeting] security features that we could do in the fall, and we talked about some new procedures that we are going to go with.”
After introducing Kennedy last week as the latest addition to her team, Chandler said she and Kennedy gave the board some insight to what the classrooms would look like with the integration of technology. Kennedy, who has taught advanced placement, pre-advanced placement and honors biology at Walker High School for a number of years, reverted back to the classroom setting and taught a class to Sparkman and board members Monday night.
She introduced them to websites such as Edmodo, Nearpod, Socrative and other software programs available for use.
Edmodo is a communication tool designed similar to a Facebook page, where teachers can post assignments, reminders, quizzes, videos, certain links to websites and planners for students via the Internet. Parents can also sign in to see their student’s classroom and homework assignments, test dates, notes, etc.
Nearpod is another interactive online tool that allows teachers to download or create presentations, and students are then able to respond and interact through that program.
The teacher can then monitor and assess the students and their work. Kennedy said the teacher controls the students’ assignments and what they see on their individual iPad from the teacher’s iPad.
Also, a teacher can project the screen onto the classroom’s SMART Board where he or she can interact along with kids.
Socrative, another software program, is a student-response website where students can take a quiz and get instant feedback. Kennedy said it’s a great tool for assessments. For example, if a large majority of students missed a specific question, the teacher is able to go back and see where the instruction was lacking in that area.
“It really helps to enhance their learning and makes them better learners. They have every tool that they could possibly need, or we’re giving them those tools anyway,” Kennedy said. “ ... It keeps them engaged in learning, and that’s the key. That’s the challenge, and that’s the key.”
With the iPads, teachers are not tied to the front of the classroom; it allows mobility so the teacher can see what each student is doing. Students can also move around with their iPads in a class, such as during a lab setting.
“I really wanted to let them (board members) know there is so much potential for what we can do to get the learners really, really involved and to get the blended learning experience,” Kennedy said. “You take the traditional classroom and put in the online iPad experience with them so they have access to so much learning information. Then you make it mobile for them and incorporate good teaching into that; so you blend your classroom.”
Approximately 2,200 iPads were distributed to students from third through 12th grade during the 2013-2014 school year. Students are allowed to take them home during the school year, but they must return them before schools let out for the summer.
The two women said each iPad is wiped clean before it is redistributed in the fall.
Although there were a few negatives found in using the iPads last year, such as wrongful use of the cameras, playing games when not allowed during class time and bringing the iPads to class not charged, Chandler and Kennedy ensured there were many more pros than cons by using the mobile technology.
“It’s a challenge,” Kennedy said.
“The more routine we make it for teachers to say ‘let’s have it in the classroom,’ the more it’s going to be a routine for students. We’re hoping we can come up with an extra iPad for each classroom so that when somebody does forget one or it’s not charged ... we can eliminate that by maybe even having a few extra chargers in the classroom or an extra iPad,” Chandler added.
Filtering changes, Chandler mentioned, may also be a nuance in regards to the social media content next year.
A few of the pros with having the iPad initiative in the city school system is “great infrastructure,” Chandler said, regarding Wifi and Internet access. Kennedy said the iPads also give “more ways to diversify and differentiate instruction,” as far as remediation or receiving extra help is concerned.
“It can meet the needs of any level learner when it’s managed and used properly with the teacher to go along with it in the classroom instruction,” Kennedy said.
Both ladies agree, though, that it is a great communication device for everyone, saying the technology can be a valuable tool in communication among teachers, students and parents.
“Our job as educators is to prepare our students for the next level,” Kennedy said. “... There’s technology wherever they go, whether they’re going into vocational school, whether they’re going to work or whether they’re going to college. Our job is to get them ready for that next level.”
“Technology shouldn’t make it harder; it should make it easier,” Chandler said. “ ... It’s not going away. We can get on board or not, but it’s not going away.”