PAUL • One month after voters rejected a program providing laptops to high-schoolers, a Paul Elementary School classroom provided a glimpse of what Idaho educators may see next.
State government and education leaders gathered Friday at Paul Elementary to celebrate the iSchool Campus program, which puts iPads in elementary school classrooms. The school is the first in Idaho to participate in the program. And on the heels of the Nov. 6 defeat of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the pilot project may signal a change in how Idaho approaches technology in schools.
Among other uses, the elementary school employs the iPads to increase student participation. Instead of calling on individual students to answer questions, for example, all students can answer a question using their iPads, and the answers come up on a screen, explained Principal Colleen Johnson.
The iPads also help students with classwork. In one fifth-grade class, Kylee McManus, Dapne Rodriguez, Christian Vega and Sarah Gallup showed visitors how they used iPads to make slideshows and practice spelling. Kindergartner Morgan Kossman played a number-matching game, and fifth-graders Liberty Schaeffer, Megan Graf, Brittany Mortensen, Karla Gomez and Greyson Harwood practiced math problems.
Those are all activities the students could do without iPads, Johnson said, but the technology increases student enthusiasm and participation.
“We’re using iPads to enhance the curriculum,” Johnson said.
The iSchools program was championed by both House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. The pair visited a school in Park City, Utah before the election to see how the program worked.
Both were impressed and worked to bring it to Paul Elementary.
The two lawmakers disagreed on the Students Come First education reform laws, with Bedke voting for the package and Cameron voting against. On Friday, Cameron said he likes the idea of small pilot programs across the state, with schools opting in voluntarily. That will likely work better than a top-down mandate, he said.
Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer also attended the ceremony.
Little supports technology in the classroom, but acknowledges that Proposition 3’s approach was likely too aggressive for voters.
“Person after person told me ‘I don’t like how Proposition 3 is, but I still like technology in the schools,’” he said.
Little said though he’s not involved in any pending laws - that’s the Legislature’s job - he said Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is sitting down with stakeholders like teachers and parents to see what type of technology programs they’d like for Idaho classrooms.
Paul’s iPad program will likely be cited as one of the success stories, Little added.
Minidoka County School District Superintendent Scott Rogers said he was proud that Paul Elementary School was the first in the state to participate in the program.
“We think this is exciting,” Rogers said.