Teaching takes new form at Cassadaga Valley

SINCLAIRVILLE – Classrooms are going to look a little different this coming school year at Cassadaga Valley.

The board of education recently approved the purchase of iPads for all middle and high school students and teachers, 560 in total. That is a pricey endeavor, but worth every penny, according to Technology Coordinator Phil Bens.

“This will be like an electronic backpack for students,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to go paperless at some point.”

One recent afternoon, teachers were divided into seven small groups to be trained by fellow experienced teachers on how to use Socrative, Notability, Google Docs and Flow Board apps.

Each app is a helpful tool in teaching students how to understand the assignments and work diligently. Flow Board is used for making presentations, like a PowerPoint; Google Docs is a way to store and share multiple assignments at once; Notability helps with research and studying; Socrative is a quiz-taking app, which allows teachers to know where students need to improve.

“Air serving” is a technique that gives teachers the opportunity to show what they teach to the entire class, while the entire class can see what the teacher or other students are doing on the projector.

“One teacher created the idea to have a screen, which shows four quads,” Bens said. “It takes four different iPads and shows them working to solve a math problem, like a race.”

Special Education Teacher Traci Stevenson enjoyed helping her peers learn how to bring this new way of teaching into their classrooms.

“We are all trying to figure this out together,” she said. “We can see up to eight iPads at once and what students are doing.”

Bens added everyone is on equal footing and no one is left out.

“Students are building teamwork and encouraging helping others,” he said. “Students that are usually quiet are finding their niche with this and are becoming more outgoing with the iPads.”

Charging stations, which can charge up to 32 iPads at once, were placed in every homeroom. As students retrieve their own iPad from the charging station, they return to the stations at the end of the day. There is also an “air portal” in every room, which will allow students access to the Internet.

One classroom is using the flat-screen TV experiment. A 70-inch HD wireless TV is mounted on the wall and works like a Smart Board.

“The students are so excited and enthusiastic about it,” Bens said. “This allows the teacher to walk around the classroom while teaching and show all the students what they are doing.”

Bens gave an example on how this could come in handy.

“If a teacher is teaching the Civil Rights Movement, they can go to YouTube and show the ‘I have a Dream’ speech,” he said. “They can discuss it afterward.”

Social Studies Teacher Tina Richir got a lot out of the learning experience.

“I liked learning from my colleagues,” she said. “We built on what we learned and it was less intimidating.”

“My students really like them. Students who are really quick learners can enrich themselves, and those who need more time have more time,” Richir continued. “Right now I am using these apps to review for finals, and I have about 82 students altogether.”

Earth Science Teacher Sean Salim taught his peers how to use Google Docs.

“They lost track of time, because they got so interested in it,” he said. “They really liked the folders idea.”

Salim added his students have a higher level of interest learning this way than the traditional way.

“Classroom participation is up. Students are not as timid,” he said. “If students get something right on the iPad, they want recognition, too.”

Bens believes there is a bright future for the students of Cassadaga Valley.

“Career readiness is what we are all about,” he said.