October 21, 2014

Teachers, parents learn how iPads, iPods can be used in classrooms

Middle-schooler Taheem Perez helps another student at iSchool event

Midlands school districts are rolling out new technology into their classrooms — to their excitement and the concern of their parents.

More than ever before, schools will be using digital learning through iPads and iPod Touches, one for each student in certain schools. 

To prepare teachers and parents, ITology in Columbia hosted the iSchool Initiative’s Digital Learning Revolution tour bus for a day — and 175 took advantage of the hands-on workshops.  One of the session was taught by a Hand Middle School student, Taheem Perez.

“I wanted them to know to be free with the technology, let the kids have fun with it. It’s not always pencil and books-you can do it through email, Facebook etc. to get their work done,” says the 13-year-old. “Students love devices, so that should grab their attention.”

ITology Executive Director Lonnie Emard says in the Richland and Lexington School Districts, there are currently more iPads and iPod Touches per capita in the classroom than anywhere else in the country right now.

“What the means is that we need to not just throw technology at this, we need to make sure that we effectively roll this out,” says Emard.

This is not an extravagance for schools who need to upgrade their PC’s, says one district IT specialist.  Her district is replacing aging computers with similar-costing, more nimble iPads, using their regular technology funds.

Less wealthy school districts can qualify for E2 T2 (Educational Excellence Through Technology) grants.

Richland School District 1 IT specialist Jennifer Thornberry says, “This is really changing the game of education; it’s putting the technology in the student’s hands and they’re just becoming more connected and they take more initiative in their own work. They take ownership in it when it is right there at their fingertips.”

For parents and even schools, this is a big investment, says Thornberry, but worth it. “As a parent, I’ve really seen the difference with my own child, who is nine years old. He had to learn his multiplication facts in third grade and i was trying to quiz him and it was like pulling teeth. I could put him on the device and he learned his multiplication facts from the different apps on the iPad. He has created videos for extra credit for science on the various stages of matter.”

His video was created using the popular app game, “Angry Birds.”

But for parents and educators, there may be a larger learning curve,” says ITology’s Lonnie Emard.

“The technology in and of itself is not the silver bullet,” he says. “It’s how you apply it and how you change the nature of how people behave and that does take time. There’s going to be a natural resistance to change. It’s uncomfortable, less secure. What we are trying to create through ITology and the iSchool initiative is that support system.”

Other districts in the state are also trying out Google Chrome book tablets in their classrooms.