Students at Shepherdstown Elementary School, through a program sponsored by the West Virginia Center for Professional Development (WVCPD), are able to envelop creative learning in the classroom. The school is completing the first year of a two-year program with WVCPD that helps educators integrate iPad technology into instructional strategies. The program is called Infusing Technology.
Shepherdstown Elementary is one of four schools across the state selected to participate in the two-year program. Leah Sparks, director of Instructional Technology at WVCPD, was on site in Shepherdstown Wednesday to offer support and observe just what the students are doing with their iPads.
The use of iPads in the school and in everyday activities is nothing new. However, WVCPD has found that teachers are often not using the device to its fullest potential because they are not aware of its broad range, Sparks shared. Educational apps for all grades, ages, technical ability and content areas are available and can revolutionize what is taught and how students learn.
“The iPad has been used primarily by most people for entertainment. We watch movies and play games on it,” said Sparks. “But many teachers see that there is so much more they can offer with some help. That is where WVCPD steps in,” she explained.
Principal Dr. Suzanne Offutt and her school team attend professional development sessions throughout the year to learn how the iPads can expand instruction that will engage students and tap into higher-level learning in the process. Teams learn about apps that have been tried and tested by educators. As part of the program, WVCPD provides all apps as well as expert mentoring and technical assistance to partnering schools.
“We have found that many schools have access to iPads, however, without the ongoing professional development, the devices have limited impact,” Sparks said. “Infusing Technology gives school teams support over an extended period of time to really get grounded in the technology and grow their programs into a core resource,” she said.
Shepherdstown Elementary students are continuing their work on public service announcements (PSAs) that address social issues facing society. Working in teams, students select topics, write a script and compose the 60-minute PSAs on their iPads. Those PSAs will be entered into a drawing for min-grants to be used for further technology enhancements at the winning schools.
Students Wednesday were also working on research projects. In Cary Gill’s fourth grade class, his students were tasked with choosing a famous woman to research. The students are able to find information via their iPads and write their reports. The students found the assignment to be fun and exciting.
Lainey Bailey, a fourth grader, says the machines are “pretty cool.” “They are fun to work with,” she continued. “They let us do a lot of stuff we never did before.” Bailey explained that she did not know how to use the iPad before learning it in school but has now learned many ways to use the device to learn.
Her partner for Wednesday’s assisgnment, Molly Conrad, shared that she has an iPad at home so she knew how to use it, she just didn’t realize how much she could use it to learn rather than just play.
“It’s to get the students excited about learning again,” Sparks said. “It’s not just the technology, it’s the learning that is important.” She explained that students think it’s fun and they share information with each other as well as how to find something on the iPad. “They like it better than the computers,” she said.
WVCPD is currently accepting applications for the next class of Infusing Technology schools. Due to demand, the Center has opened the program up to 60 school teams that will participate in the program over the course of a year. Teams and schools must have access to their own iPads, but the Center will provide expert mentors, materials and all apps used throughout the year, as well as training on how to infuse the technology into instruction.
A goal of the WVCPD is to provide instruction in how to use the iPads to teach in the classroom.
“We want to help teachers use their iPads to promote student engagement and higher learning,” Sparks said. Those interested in the summer program are encouraged to contact the center at 304-588-0539 for more information.