Technology in the classroom

SOUTH DAYTON – Students do not turn in homework electronically until they reach college.

Students who attend Pine Valley Central School are getting some early experience by using iPads. The school has launched a pilot program to hand out iPads to students in select grades and classes.

The pilot program in the school started with the iPad being used with special education students during the 2010-2011 school year. That initiative spread and currently 350 students in the district are equipped with an iPad 2 in grades 3, 5 though 9, honor classes and special education. The initial purchase of iPads was through the district’s BOCES budget with some funding coming from an e-book initiative. The district hopes to have all reading materials and textbooks available on the iPad.

The iPads are used in a variety of ways in the classroom. from Students use Dropbox to submit their assignments. Most teachers use a portal called My Big Campus in the classroom as a way to communicate to students and even give tests. Teachers may use whatever apps they would like in the classroom.

“The teacher might have their own flavor of apps they like to use in the classroom,” Matt Bromberg, director of technology, said.

Technology Specialist Kelsey Braun said that in some instances, an app will be used by every student in a grade. Dropbox, if used in a grade, will be used across the board with all students, Braun said. The district keeps track of all the apps downloaded and has the ability to remotely configure an iPad. The technology department also monitors students usage online through daily reports. Teachers and students are given lessons on apps as well as how to stay safe online.

“We’re probably the most cutting edge school in all of Western New York. It’s easy to just hand out a bunch of iPads but we have to set up a way to manage those iPads. We can, over wireless, send out a configuration file to change the configuration of the iPads,” Braun said. “In some areas we can send out apps through wireless so that the app will pop up right on their iPad that a teacher wants a student to use and content filtering. Even when they’re at home, the iPad is being filtered so (students) can’t go into inappropriate sites.”

The district monitors what apps students download and will take appropriate action if the apps are not school appropriate. Only high school students who have iPads are allowed to download their own apps. For younger students, teachers put in requests for apps they would like to use. The technology department will install apps on iPads for teachers once research is done. Wifi is used in order to install the apps on the iPad. Teachers can do a random audit to see if students have inappropriate pictures or too many photos, or even inappropriate apps. The iPads are monitored through the district’s mobile device management server and Apple configurator.

Students in grades 5 through 12 have an email through Live@edu, a Microsoft program, which can be accessed on the iPad. Email reports are generated if anything comes through that is inappropriate.

“It’s another way for teachers to communicate with their students,” Kelley Ivett, technology integration specialist, said. “You have to have an iPad hooked up to an email.”

Only certain email addresses are allowed, however. The district has had to allow emails from certain colleges for students in order to be able to receive them. Even if the student does not currently have an iPad, every student from grades 5 to 12 is given an email address. If there are any problems with inappropriate pictures, apps or emails, the student will be emailed then referred to school principals or the superintendent.

To protect the iPads, students receive a 15-page handbook detailing rules and regulations for use of the iPads. The district has purchased an extended warranty on the devices which will cover one accidental breakage with a $49 service charge.

“Out of 350 iPads, we’ve had three devices come back that we had to send out. Only one was glass related,” Bromberg said.

Starting in a student’s freshman year, the student will receive an iPad that will follow them throughout their four years of high school. They will also be able to access their personal folder on the school’s server through their iPad next year. For students who lose their iPads, the district is able to track down the devices through an Apple application.

“We had one (iPad) lost. I went into ‘Find my iPad’ and made it beep a noise and they located it (within) the school,” Braun said.

Teachers use the iPads in class for different various. Shawn Huestis, elementary and middle school music teacher, used the iPads in the classroom for virtual instruments. Students played a virtual keyboard and were recorded on an iPad by their peers.

While having students record each other is time consuming, Huestis will give students a quiz on the iPads when not recording or performing. In his middle school music class, Huestis has his students look up guitar chords as a learning assistant. While the iPad will not replace a physical guitar, it is helpful for students to make sure they are using the correct fingers and chords.

“It doesn’t replace (traditional) tools,” Huestis said.

Math teacher Rebekah Farrow uses iPads in her classroom to give tests. She uploads the test as a PDF and then the students can download the test onto their iPads. If students have a stylus, it makes it much easier to do work on the iPad but students may do work on paper.

Next year, students in grades 3 to 12 will have their own personal iPad. In the primary grades, K through 2, a classroom set of four iPads will be left in the classroom for the teacher and students to utilize. In the school year, 2014-2015, every student is projected to have their own personal iPad.

“Our ultimate goal is to have every single student in this district have an iPad and have all their textbooks or required readings on that iPad,” Bromberg said.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.