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iPad Innovation Project Helps Elementary Students Engage in Learning

The Elmbrook School Board was given a presentation in which a teacher said her students were benefitting from the implementation of iPads in the elementary levels.

The implementation of 320 iPads in Elmbrook’s elementary levels have shown to motivate and engage students in learning, according to a presentation given to the school board.

The iPads were placed in the kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms to assist in personalized learning and innovation.

Chris Thompson, chief information officer for Elmbrook Schools, told the board last week the teachers are expected to challenge the students using iPads for “higher-order thinking” three times a week.

Higher-order thinking includes developing skills in creativity, evaluation and research, critical thinking and problem solving.

“We are really getting students to extend their thinking and to demonstrate their creative and innovative thinking through the apps and the tool itself,” Thompson said at the board meeting.

In 2012, a team of teachers, technology integrators, and technical staff evaluated a number of personal device options (Nooks, Android, iPad) before determining the iPad as the best tool for kindergarten, first and second grades.

Teachers have learned that apps are simple to learn, engaging to students, and provide new opportunities to demonstrate understanding. They have also found different ways to integrate iPads into their classrooms. 

Wendy Ruhland, a second-grade teacher at Swanson Elementary School, told the board she primarily uses the iPads during reading and math, but they are also useful for the science and research progress. Ruhland uses the iPads on a daily basis.

The students who are using the iPads are more engaged with their learning.

“They are very, very highly motivated to use the iPads, and they are highly focused when they are using the iPad,” Ruhland said. “The iPad obviously adds something that us standing in front of them does not.”

In a memo to the board, Thompson said it will take time and training to transition their expectations of classroom use of technology to higher-order-thinking skills.

To spark innovative approaches to teaching and learning, 28 teachers were identified across the district to meet, learn and discuss opportunities develop innovative approaches at the classroom level.

Examples of this innovation include a focus on grading for learning, STEM or World Language academies, Montessori schools, online academies, one-on-one laptop/iPad classrooms, blended classrooms that do not meet face-to-face every day, and multi-age classrooms.

The district forecasted that $75,000 may be budgeted to support classroom innovation for 2013-14, to include professional development time, curriculum planning, and the purchase of necessary hardware and software.

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