iPad Initiative, Director of Technology Letter

As anyone who has recently purchased their first “smart phone” can attest, having an Internet-capable device with them throughout the day is a game-changer in terms of their communication, productivity and efficiency. With iPads available throughout the school day and beyond, students now are able to research material, connect with their teachers and other students through messaging and email, and have instant access to a shared classroom calendar for each of their subjects, all at a moment’s notice. They can create and collaborate on documents with ease, create videos for classroom projects, and access limitless apps that help deepen learning. More and more textbooks are being converted to a digital format, and are being optimized with the iPad in mind. But the impact iPads have made at Prairie does not stop there.

Within the classroom, students can now easily present ideas to their peers and teachers. Whether this happens formally through group presentations or informally from their seats, it is now seamlessly facilitated through the use of wireless connectivity to all of our classroom projectors.  With the use our iPads’ user friendly interface our students have been better able to develop exceptional communication skills and produce professional presentations.  These presentation skills are introduced in Middle School, honed throughout our student’s time at Prairie and will be used  throughout their academic and professional careers.

Classrooms are now becoming streamlined into a digital workflow, as the efficacy of the tools available for teachers to connect with student devices continues to improve. Piloted by a handful of teachers in the 7th and 8th grade in the spring of last year, we are excited that teachers in grades 5-8 will be using a product called eBackpack in the fall of 2014.  This product simplifies the process of distribution, annotation, collection and grading of students’ digital work. It also features a parent connection as well, allowing them access to view PDFs of their child’s work and monitor their progress online.

Having uniform mobile devices in the hands of every student has enabled teachers the ability to change how they deliver instruction as well.  A “flipped classroom” approach in one way or another is being integrated into a number of different areas, most notably in the Middle School math classes taught by Mrs. Carmen Warren. The flipped classroom is a model of teaching that offers content that would traditionally be introduced in a classroom lecture in the form of condensed online videos, usually created by the teacher. These videos actually become the “homework” for the students, allowing class time to be used for productive, inquiry-based learning and an opportunity for teachers to better tailor instruction in response to the students’ needs. The iPad is central to this process, as it the portal to video, as well as the online response completed with the assignment by the students.

These are just a few examples of how the introduction of iPads into the life of the school has begun to make a difference in the education of your children. We will continue to thoughtfully evaluate the newest trends available as a faculty, and strive to incorporate new tools that best enhance classroom instruction as they continue to evolve.

 

Klay Shannon

Director of Technology