There was some rumbling and grumbling within the community last year when District 97 administrators received iPads.
This year, kindergartners will be working on the high-tech, touch-screen computer devices in their classes. More than 200 iPads have been distributed to the eight elementary schools. The kids have used them in classroom lessons thus far twice a week mainly on literacy, for 40-60 minutes.
Duane Meighan, D97’s curriculum coordinator for the elementary schools, said the district’s iPad initiative utilizes educational applications to help “accelerate learning for our kindergarten students at all levels, whether they’re in the middle or higher, or if they fall in the low areas as well.”
“Early intervention continues to be a primary focus in District 97,” Meighan added. “It’s one of the key RTI (Response to Intervention) concepts that we have been focusing on as a district. We know there’s plenty of research out there that the more resources we have in place for our primary kids in the primary grades will certainly prevent the possibility of students actually falling through the cracks, or even preventing a cycle of possible failure for those kids who transition from the primary grades to the intermediate grades, beginning at third grade.”
Teachers are also currently engaged in professional development to learn how to integrate the devices in their instruction.
Lorrie Applebey, a D97 teacher leader for technology, said the students first spent time just learning how to use the devices. One lesson involved taking their own picture and using a drawing application to demonstrate two interesting things about themselves.
Small groups of kindergarteners are working together in each classroom, but one goal, Applebey says, is for students to learn how to work independently. While the focus has mostly been on improving literacy, there are also applications to help kids in Spanish, math and science, she said.
Meighan and Applebey gave an update on the initiative to the D97 school board last Tuesday. Board members were given iPads used by the students to show some of the work the kids and their teachers are doing. Meighan adds that students will need technology-based skills, likely, in their future careers.
“Our little ones are living in a world that’s shrinking by the moment daily,” he said. “It’s critically important to understand that; when I think about my 5-year-old who’s in kindergarten and our kindergarten students here in District 97, many of the jobs that they are going to have when they graduate from college have not been created yet.”
Supt. Albert Roberts added that using iPads is one aspect of overall instruction.
“We always believe in face-to-face interaction,” he said. “This is just a tool within our arsenal to helps kids learn, and that’s what technology will always be from my vantage point.”