When third-graders at Pendergast Elementary School in the Pendergast Elementary School District learned about the different types of bridges, they read a little in their textbook then visited the Golden Gate Bridge via virtual reality on the iPads they use in class.
“Everything we learned about in our test, how they were working on the cables and how they were doing everything is all right here,” said Lisa Slover, who teaches third grade at the southwest Phoenix school.
Video by Lauren Negrete/AZEdNews: Technology in the Classroom
Students used Keynote on their iPads to create their projects on the differences between suspension and beam bridges, then sent their projects to Slover for corrections via Airdrop.
Seventy-five percent of teachers use technology daily with their students and they say it helps them create more creative lessons and provides more time for one-on-one attention for students, according to Education Week’s 2017 Technology in the Classroom survey, which gathered responses from more than 2,500 teachers and administrators across the U.S.
This is all possible thanks to Apple’s ConnectED grant that the school was awarded in 2016, which provided the iPads and programs that the school incorporated into its curriculum, said Michael Woolsey, principal of the school in the district that serves more than 10,000 students in Avondale, Glendale and Phoenix. One hundred fourteen schools in the nation and 13 in Arizona received Apple ConnectED grants to support their educational goals with technology this year.
“We’re getting them ready for careers and college, and putting devices in their hands that are going to impact their learning, and impact their marketability,” Woolsey said.
Impact on engagement and achievement
Not only are engagement levels and test scores up in this second year of the school’s technology-centered curriculum, but discipline issues and office referrals have been cut in half, Woolsey said.
“Our kids are engaged in high-levels of learning at our school, and it’s a great time to be a student right now,” Woolsey said.
Boosting creativity and confidence
Using the technology also has had an emotional impact on students, who have created presentations to show their work or turned in iMovie projects with voice-over narration, said Michelle Longmire, Pendergast’s technology teacher.
Students have shown a sense of pride and confidence in their ability to do creative work, and the technology has helped shy students to better express themselves, Longmire said.
In art classes, students have used an Apple’s Sketchbook for Education to do multi-layered drawings by importing pictures of themselves and doing contour drawing over them with a layering system before using the airbrush tool to render their pictures, said Deborah LaPrell, who teaches art at the school.
“It’s beneficial because a lot of the technology that we have out in the professional world is leading us to use those programs more,” LaPrell said, noting that Sketchbook is easier to use than Adobe Photoshop and offers similar features.
Students enjoy learning with the iPads and virtual reality, Slover said.
“There’s all kinds of things that the kids can access, things they might not be able to do in their lifetime such as go to another planet, but because of virtual reality, they’re actually able to see it like they’re there,” Slover said. “Which is really neat for them.”
Enhancing students’ focus
Also, working on the iPads helps students keep on task, Slover said.
“They are so busy doing what they’re doing, they’re not paying attention to what their neighbor is doing,” Slover said.
Plus, the threat of having their iPad privileges revoked is enough to make sure her third graders don’t navigate somewhere else, Slover said.
Students are warned that the iPads are being monitored by teachers to prevent them from looking at web pages they’re not supposed to, and the IT department can block certain sites like Facebook or Instagram with iBoss, Longmire said.
Teacher training and curriculum integration
A key part of implementing technology-centered curriculum has been training teachers and helping them become more comfortable using technology in the classroom, Longmire said.
Ninety-eight percent of teachers said they used digital technology in their classrooms, and 43 percent said they collaborated with colleagues to develop engaging, effective instruction, according to “2017 Educator Confidence Report: Setting the Stage for the Digital Age,” a recent survey by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
At a teacher collaborative event with a sister school in the district, Apple trainers showed teachers and staff how to use select products to enhance learning, Longmire said.
Even after training, it’s important to remember that there is a learning curve for teachers just like there is for students, Slover said.
“We are getting the apps and different programs and things sent to us and we have the one day of training, but that’s not enough for us to really know what we are doing and to create new lessons,” Slover said.
“It’s just going to take time for us as teachers to really develop the ability to work with some of the different programs, create lessons and make the changes that we need to in teaching,” Slover said.
What the future holds
Woolsey said he hopes to keep the program going strong over time by using new apps that enhance learning and by teaching students how to develop apps that the school may use in the future.
“Not only are they learning from things that are already developed, but they are also developing the tools they are going to be using,” Woolsey said.
In the future, Longmire said she would like to see the technology used to help students learn more about careers they are interested in and the training they’ll need after high school to succeed at those careers, including college and graduate school.
“Can we use these iPads to show them those different careers? Yes,” Longmire said, noting that virtual reality is a tremendous help with that. “They are able to see different things that people do and be able to pick what they want to do.”