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Tiger Talk: iPads at PR-B Schools

It is year two of the “iPride — Engage” iPad initiative at Pine River-Backus Schools.

Like many other schools currently implementing iPads into buildings and classrooms, we are continually finding new ways to engage students and incorporate the devices into our daily instruction.

One of the best parts of my job is getting into all the classrooms and seeing the various ways teachers are engaging and teaching kids. With iPads, this is happening in many different ways.

One thing I have noticed is iPads are used in similar ways, but yet in very different ways by all teachers. This is expected as each teacher has his or her own style of teaching.

One teacher I observed was using the iPad with a single student who had unique learning needs. The lesson was entirely planned and executed by an application (“app”) on the iPad. The student was highly engaged and the teacher was using the iPad as an instructional tool with ease. She was able to efficiently teach important concepts while making the learning really fun!

I asked this teacher why she chose that particular app. The teacher said, “It was engaging, fun, effective, was quick to plan for and it was free.” (Not all apps are free, but this particular one was).

In another classroom students were creating a presentation with an app that allowed them to record their voice as they talked, and it allowed them to draw and mark various talking points. Their movements were recorded as well. Once the students were finished, they could just “press play” and show their presentation.

It could be projected on a Smartboard or shown on their iPad. Additionally, because the app allowed students to save their work, each student would be able to email his or her presentation to a parent or friend. Normally the student would present in class and that would be the end of it. This allows them to save their product, which can be beneficial for future reflections or assessments for teachers.

Also, Pine River-Backus Schools now have eBooks; 18 eBooks were added to the system and more will be added as the year progresses. The current eBooks are geared toward the 5th-8th grade level. New books will be added for the other grade levels soon. Students are able to access these books using a web browser on an iPad or computer.

These are just a few of the many ways iPads are beginning to take more of a shape at PR-B.

So, are iPads going to be replacing textbooks? Will our entire curriculum eventually be on the iPads? Obviously I cannot certainly say what the future may hold, but for now I see schools continuing to use textbooks AND iPads as tools to achieve learning objectives.

A colleague of mine said it best: “The discussion should not be iPads OR Textbooks. Rather, we should focus on using iPads AND textbooks to enhance student learning.”

I agree that both can serve an integral purpose for teaching students as we move into the 21st century of learning.

Kids of all ages are constantly increasing their fluency with technology. We better keep up! Just the other morning, my 3-year-old daughter was up before everyone (like usual). She was sitting in her room with an iPad using an interactive learning app.

The interesting thing is that the iPad had a code to push in order to unlock it for use. Then she had to find the app she was looking for. There were more than 50 choices to shuffle through. Finally, she had to follow the instructions for the application.

None of this was taught by anyone except herself. I am certain that because the iPad is so engaging and interactive this is a tool she will continue to use when developing beginning literacy and math concepts. Like most little boys and girls, she still likes books and coloring pictures, but I know the iPad will be another tool to support her learning development.

It is worth mentioning that an initiative like 1:1 iPads is a difficult task. We should applaud our teachers at PR-B for challenging themselves to learn the devices and integrate them into their instruction. It is a constant learning process that takes time.

Also, our technology staff at PR-B is second to none! They will continue to support us as we expand the applications we may use, learn more from others about ways to use iPads, and help manage anything new that may be on the horizon. It truly takes a team effort to sustain and continue learning about iPads in education.

We are doing it, and I am proud to be a part of it!