Primary School Boasts New iPad Lab

ST. MARYS — At St. Marys Primary School this year,  local students will have the opportunity to use some new technology in the form of tablet computers.

Located in a locked, mobile case are 30 iPad2s with cases that teachers at the school will be able to utilize in their classrooms.

“What got us started was our staff members having their own technology and seeing their own children using the technology and just seeing what’s out there,” Principal Sue Sherman said. “It’s incredible the amount of resources and it’s such an easy-to-use tool.”

She noted the tablets are better sized for the younger students.

“Regular computers involve large keyboards, and that’s a learning curve for 5 to 8-year-olds,” Sherman said. “We feel our students at the age they are have better accessibility to iPads.”

That put them on the hunt for the devices.

“Through our technology coordinator, we were able to purchase an iPad lab,” she said, noting the lab is an addition to the building’s computer lab.

“It’s mobile, which means you can bring it down to your classroom and you can use five if you want. If you want a center for iPads — so five kids are working on the iPads, five kids are with you, five kids are over on the regular computers. It just is an additional use of technology.”

This summer St. Marys Primary School staff members were trained on the devices.

“Interested staff members — and we were only allowed to have 20, they won’t train more than 20, but we had a full house — in June we had a training here onsite from the Apple training specialists,” Sherman said. “It was introductions, also the many capabilities it has. It was really geared toward educational  apps, just apps that are most popular, useful in education. It was a basic orientation to shortcuts and that sort of stuff.”

To help establish the iPads in the building, there will be a committee devoted to the devices.

“We’re putting together a committee, one teacher from each grade level, and when a suggestion for an app is made by another teacher, they refer it to the committee,” Sherman said.

“Then the committee will look at it to see how versatile is it, will it be able to address a lot of kids or just a specific need for a specific student. At the same time we purchased the lab, we purchased vouchers to buy apps. So we’re establishing a committee who will review the recommendations for the apps and who will help install them.”

She noted how a teacher could use the devices in a lesson.

“A teacher can take their iPad and place it under a document camera, so therefor the kids see exactly what they’re pressing and what they’re pushing and what they’re activating and the students can follow along in order to learn something,” Sherman said.

“We all know that kids are very adept with technology, but to introduce, ‘Hey this is an app I’d like to use to practice during math time, that sort of thing. That’s how I see it working, as a teacher uses the iPad in conjunction with the document camera just to familiarize the kids with how to do a certain activity or whatever they want them to accomplish.”

She noted they already utilize the document cameras with their ENO boards.

Another example of a classroom lesson, Sherman said, would be a lesson on plants.

“We hope to utilize the camera, so maybe they’re studying plants and they go outside with their teacher and take pictures of plants to bring back to the classroom to talk about,” she said.

What is used, Sherman noted, will be concentrated toward the students’ age group.

“It’s all going to be based on the age of the child and what’s appropriate for them,” she said.

She noted some teachers had an iPad this summer to get used to using the technology, and the devices will be beneficial to both them and their students.

“A lot of our kids are visual learners and this would especially be helpful with our visual learners,” she said.

“School is very auditory. When you just have a teacher in a classroom with no technology, you rely basically on the few resources you have and your voice. With so many visual learners, this will help reach those learners a little bit better. With kids being so in tune to their DSs, and I see them playing with their parents’ phones all the time, these are natural attractions for 5 to 8-year-olds ... Here you’re an active learner. It promotes constant engagement.”

The devices were delivered in late spring but they wanted to wait to utilize them until this year.

“We wanted our staff to be trained on them appropriately,” Sherman said. “This will be brand new for us this school year.”

The iPad2s were purchased using federal stimulus funds, which Sherman noted had to be used toward reading and math programs.