PAUL • Students at one Minidoka County school will set aside paper and pencils this year to use iPads as the school becomes the first in Idaho to pilot the iSchool Campus program.
“We are really going to be on the state’s stage with all eyes on Paul Elementary School,” said Scott Rogers, superintendent for the Minidoka County School District. “This will transform K-5 education and change the way we teach in the classroom.”
Full deployment of a “Smart School” on a single K-5 campus has been done in six states, including Utah and Colorado, and has been piloted in nine states. The iSchool Campus is headquartered in Park City, Utah.
Paul Elementary will launch the one-year pilot program in October.
The devices will be connected to “robust” Internet security software at the Paul school that ensures they are used only for educational purposes.
“We actually hope to learn how to make the Internet safer for students at our other schools through the use of this program,” Rogers said.
He said students in grades 2-5 will be allowed to take the iPads home.
About 450 K-5 students and their teachers will receive iPads as part of the project, which is funded through a grant and partnership between iSchool Campus and Apple Inc. The school was chosen to participate because it is an award-winning Idaho Leads Project school.
The teachers will receive intensive training Oct. 10-12 and the official launch date will be announced after that, probably during the third or fourth week of October, Rogers said.
He said the district is hosting an informational meeting with demonstrations to address parental concerns.
“We are really excited about this,” Jeanna Differding said Wednesday as she picked up her two granddaughters from the Paul school. “We have no concerns at all about it.”
Josi Christensen, who has children in the first and third grades at the school, said she doesn’t think the technology belongs in an elementary school at all.
“The technology is not needed to teach reading, writing and math,” said Christensen. “I’m afraid everybody is buying into this consumerism instead of doing the hard work necessary to teach kids. Teaching is not easy.”
Christensen said she considers the devices “fancy whiteboards” and questions how long the novelty will last with the students.
“I want my kids to use pencils and paper,” she said.
A Teaching Adjustment
Rogers said the use of iPads in the classroom calls for a shift in the way teaching has been done for a couple of hundred years.
“Teachers used to have to be the sage on stage. Now they will shift to a guide on the side,” Rogers said.
The technology allows every child to engage in the lesson being taught. In a traditional classroom with a teacher standing at the front, Rogers said, a few students may engage in the lesson while the others remain quiet.
“Student engagement really increases using the iPads,” Rogers said.
Teachers will each receive an iPad, MacBook and classroom television along with audio equipment and training.
The teacher will wear a microphone, which may benefit some students with hearing difficulties.
“The potential for student engagement is 100 percent,” said Rogers. “This doesn’t replace teachers, they are still the guide on the side, but the students take responsibility for their learning. They still have instruction from the teacher and quizzes. It’s just not done with paper and pencils.”
Rogers said the teachers are excited by the prospect of reaching students who may not respond to traditional teaching methods.
“We are very excited about this opportunity,” Paul Elementary Principal Colleen Johnson said in a press release. “We are open to anything that shows promise in supporting our teachers as they work to raise the individual student’s achievement and give every student equal educational opportunity.”
The company, iSchool, says its pilot programs have shown impressive whole-school improvements in test scores, attendance, discipline, cost savings and teacher adoption of technology.
“If the program is successful our biggest challenge will be how to fund and duplicate the program in our other schools,” Rogers said.