The introduction of iPads at Lansing Middle School has more than students learning new things, according to a group of teachers at the school.
The devices were first introduced last semester following a unique request to use the devices in lieu of buying new textbooks, according to teachers.
There are 32 iPads for each classroom, according to eighth-grade science instructor Cori Lee, shared among the classes. The devices have not completely replaced the traditional science textbooks in the class. But Lee said they have helped overcome one of the biggest drawbacks to buying those physical books.
“It's just that some of the information is getting outdated,” she said.
In addition to the devices, and in conjunction with them, the class has a blog for students to use in accessing science-related videos and other content.
None of this, according to sixth-grade science teacher Jennifer Kolb, has superseded themore traditional aspects of a science class.
“We definitely didn't want to get into a situation where we were getting rid of all the hands-on science and only using the iPads,” she said. “We've been able to make our labs even better with the iPads.”
Students have multiple avenues ― videos and music, for instance ― to demonstrate what they've learned, Kolb said. And she said there are a number of science-related programs among the hundreds of thousands of applications available.
Lee said there are applications of the technology beyond just science.
“One of the things that we have enjoyed as teachers and the students have enjoyed is immediate feedback,” she said. “You give them a paper test now and they say 'can you grade this right now?'”
The white-board feature of the iPad allows teachers to check for understanding of concepts across the classroom instantly, Lee said. According to Kolb, the technology can allow for more differentiated instruction for those students who need extra time to grasp the material with a “read aloud” function to accommodate students with special reading needs.
In Lee's class Tuesday, students were using iPads variously to work on research projects and watch videos about meteorological phenomenon. Eighth-grade student Laszlo Taborosi said there are definite benefits to working with one of the devices.
“It's faster,” for one, he said.
That's not to say that the adoption of the technology has been without hiccups. Stacey Jenkins, a science instructor for the seventh grade at LMS, said limited technological support at the district level and the logistics of implementing software updates for more than 180 devices at once can be time consuming. Compatibility issues and bandwidth have also caused some minor issues, Jenkins said.
Page 2 of 2 - “We've had some days that our internet is too slow to get the videos downloaded that we want,” she said.
There has been a period of transition, as well, as the new technology is incorporated into the schools' everyday instruction. That goes for the teachers, Lee said, and for the already tech-savvy students as well. Some of them know iPads mostly as a medium for playing games, not for school work.
In addition to working to counter that mentality, the LMS science teachers meet for a half-daylong meeting every month to iron out some of the tech issues. And Jenkins said they've been talking to other nearby districts, like Basehor-Linwood, to see what how they are using the tablets and what they might be able to teach Lansing.
But as a small version of a project that could in the future be similar to how all classrooms operate, LMS Principal Kerry Brungardt commended the work of his science instructors.
“They have worked tirelessly this year to perfect what they're doing with the iPads andalso put a lot of planning into it last year to get to where they're at today,” he said.