Uptown Greenville, NC


Oh App-y Day: Students Love Learning Via iPad

By Katherine Ayers
The Daily Reflector

September 28, 2012 - Students at South Greenville Elementary School are experiencing a whole new way to learn this year, thanks to a set of iPads.

Every third, fourth and fifth grade student received an iPad for use during the day. Most instruction is geared toward the devices. Teachers use education-related applications — or apps — already loaded onto the iPads for various subjects.

South Greenville is the first public school in Pitt County in which each child in a grade level has his or her own iPad.

Lauren Boucher, the technology facilitator at the school, said the program has generated excitement among students and staff.

“We already see a difference in students’ self-esteem,” she said. “They know this is a special program they’re a part of.”

One of the biggest changes that occurred as part of the transition to iPads was from the teacher as the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side,” Boucher said.

“Students demonstrate knowledge rather than just listen to what the teacher says,” South Greenville Principal Shawanda Cherry said. “Teachers can facilitate a discussion, they don’t have to be the giver of all knowledge.”

Students spend more time collaborating with each other. For example, they may record themselves teaching a math lesson on their iPad and then walk across the room to share their recording with a friend. This collaboration means students, teachers and administrators had to adjust to the increased noise level.

Fifth grade teacher Julia Jones said that while the learning curve for the iPad was steep, admitting she still uses an older flip cellphone.

Jones said the iPad has allowed her to be more flexible in her teaching, and she is experimenting with a “flipped classroom” model where students first watch a short introductory video on the assigned topic for the day, then jump into the discussion part of the lesson with her guidance. According to Jones, it helps take the lecture out of teaching and makes better use of valuable class time.

Students in Jones’ class agreed that the iPad is the way to go.

“I watch videos on math ,and it feels like I’m playing, but I’m actually learning,” Cydra Clemons said.

Timothy Latham liked the collaboration the iPad apps provide.

“You can get on the Educreation (app) and share what you know,” he said.

Cherry said the school holds a “digital summit” for the community once a month so students can show how they use the iPads. With Christmas approaching, Cherry said some parents are thinking of investing in iPads their children can use at home.

All iPads stay at school. Tim DeCresie, coordinator of instructional technology for Pitt County Schools, said taking them home may be an option later, but the district is taking “baby steps.”

“I would feel more comfortable having the high school students taking the iPads home,” he said. “Also, federal guidelines say that students can’t take home a borrowed device until the school has a way to filter the Internet at home (for safety reasons, like we can at school). We have to protect the child both at school and at home.”

Cherry said the school is working on an after-school program for children who want to use their iPads for extra studying or playing educational games. Right now, students have the option for free play on the device during the time between finishing breakfast at school and at the beginning of the day.

While South Greenville is the only school with one-to-one iPads, DeCresie said technology in all schools is being upgraded. Pitt County Schools offered a week-long training course this summer which showcased new technologies and helped teachers learn ways to incorporate that technology into the Common Course of Study that North Carolina debuted this year.

“At least $800,000 was put into technology,” he said. “All computers are now less than five years old.”

DeCresie said PCS is looking at what devices are best to use with the students. If it turns out that iPads work well, the school system may expand the South Greenville program at other schools next year.

“We’re trying to bring the student’s (outside) world inside during the most important part of their day,” he said.

Elizabeth Hodge, an associate professor in the Business and Technology Education department at East Carolina University, said that any new technology can help a student learn but it is not a replacement for solid teaching.

“It’s a tool like a pencil is,” she said. “If you give them a pencil, you have to teach them how to use it, to think critically, to problem solve, all those same elements aimed at any other technology whether it’s an iPad, a video conference, anything.”

New technology training is vital for teachers, Hodge said.

“You have to know how to use a tool effectively and integrate that, that’s the key,” she said.

Contact Katherine Ayers at kayers@reflector.com and 252-329-9567.