Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 18 March 2011 00:00
Jackson Avenue School Principal Matthew Gaven gave a report to the board of education at its March 3 workshop meeting on the progress of the iPad initiative that was instituted this school year for the fifth graders. Many of the students were “showing off some of their knowledge and some of the things they learned,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said. “You can tell what they do at home I guess because they’re hanging out and working on their iPads.”
Nagler and the board signed off on the initiative in July 2010, in an effort to move technology into the classroom. Gaven said that not only are the teachers aiding the students, but the teachers are learning new things as well. Fifth graders were given the iPads this past September.
“We had just a really wonderful set of professional development activities together,” Gaven said.
Teachers met with Apple representatives over the summer to discuss the usage of the devices in everyday teaching, according to Gaven.
Gaven broke down the iPad initiative into three phases. Phase one saw teachers come back and essentially “revamped the fifth grade,” working in two teams with partners, which almost mirrored the middle school structure.
“Everyone taught English Language Arts, one of the two teachers would teach math, the other teacher would teach social studies and science and the students switched class,” Gaven said.
One class period was designated as having no pullout sheets and called it the iPad exploration period, allowing teachers to implement new ways of integrating the device into the curriculum.
“The whole basis of this was really to create 21st-century learning,” Gaven said. “We want students that are creative, that they’re collaborative, they communicate with each other and they are engaged all day long with critical thinking activities.”
Phase two saw the implementation of short research projects using Safari, Pages and Keynote, the Apple versions of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word. Meanwhile, the district began exploring different applications. The third phase was to enable file sharing and communication using in-district e-mail for each student, who can only receive e-mails from other Mineola school addresses.
“They can’t get spam, they can only get work related e-mails,” Gaven said.
Teachers can ask questions over e-mail, which the students learned how to use reading and writing on the iPad using iBooks and bundled writing software. Classes also created a “wiki” – a series of editable articles as part of a project on pioneers, allowing students to collaborate, change and comment on each other’s pages.
According to district surveys, 50 percent of students found writing more interesting and 66 percent of students found reading more interesting when using iPads.
“That level of engagement was amplified just by the medium of the iPad itself,” Gaven said, adding that no student accidents were reported with the iPads, indicating the students are exercising more responsibility with the devices.
Parents are also seeing a difference as 87 percent characterized themselves as more interested in what their children were learning in school.
“Pretty much the majority of our parents have seen their students doing work at home using the iPad,” Gaven said.
Over 90 percent of parents want the program to expand to sixth grade.
“Every one of them was asked if they wanted to keep the iPad through sixth (grade), they said yes, they wanted to keep it through high school,” Board President Terence Hale said.
According to Gaven, surrounding districts have also become interested in using iPads in their classrooms as Herricks, North Shore, St. Aidan’s and Garden City have either visited or have asked to visit for demonstrations.