NORA SPRINGS, Iowa – For one local school district, a new school year means implementing new technology.
At first glance into some of the classrooms in the Central Springs Community School District, you’d think that not a whole lot was being accomplished with everyone glued to their iPads, but it’s very opposite; in fact, some of the new apps are even helping students progress quicker and learn in a new way.
Amy Brown, a second grade teacher, says they started using iPads in her classroom toward the end of last year, but now they’re integrating this technology into almost everything they do. “We use it for reading, we use it for a cursive writing practice at the end of the year, we use it for social studies, science, we use it for almost everything,” she explains, and she’s not alone. Brown’s across the hall neighbor Mr. Julie Despenas is also using iPads in her class, and she says she’s seen a significant change in how much her kids are learning on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s just a tremendous change in technology from seven years ago to today,” Despenas explains.
Some of the new apps for this year include different writing programs, science programs, and one app called Math Zombie. Kids are asked a series of addition and subtraction questions, and correct answers keep their characters safe from the virtual zombie apocalypse.
“Anyway that you can make learning fun, and find things that they enjoy to do is important,” explains Brown. “Who doesn’t enjoy playing a game on an iPad? And, they’re learning at the same time so it’s really great.” And it’s really working.
“We are seeing great success in our test scores and with their engagement in the classroom,” says Elementary School Principal Bill Carlson. From day one, Carlson says he’s always wanted to improve on the classroom experience for the kids, and he feels as though this is a hands-on, proactive way of doing just that.
He also says that not only are they learning important math and science skills in a fun way, but also certain tech skills. “When these kids graduate, what jobs are going to be available for them and what skills do they have to have?” Carlson wonders. “Well, one of the skills that they’re going to have to have is efficiently running technology and finding what they need to find,” which is something Tech Coordinator Jereme Baldus says he has to do every day.
Baldus is new to the Central Springs staff as of this year. He says even after receiving a degree from NIACC, nothing is as important as knowing fundamental tech skills. “We focus on fundamentals,” he explains, “and that’s my focus. If I have a tech issue, I always go back to my fundamentals and think about what is not working and that’s how we teach the kids to troubleshoot an issue.”
There’s quite a bit of responsibility for having a piece of technology like this. That being said, first, second, and third graders keep their devices in the classroom instead of bringing them home, but older students have the option of bringing their iPad home. In order to do this, parents must be brought in for a meeting with school administrators to talk about damage policies and upkeep expectations. So far, since the iPads have been brought into the classroom, they have had very few damage reports.