As parents might have expected, Ramsey 8th graders are using their iPads as quick reference tools, to look up facts, conversions, and concepts during and after classes. But, the devices, which were handed out to all 8th graders at Smith School last October, are actually being integrated into the curriculum in a way that could really change and update teaching and learning processes in Ramsey, officials say.
Smith students and teachers gave a presentation to the board of education earlier this month highlighting some of the ways the iPads are being used in the classroom. According to educators, one of the most innovative ways is using the technology to create a “flipped classroom.”
Using that technique, teachers prepare video lessons or virtual lectures that kids watch at home, as a homework assignment, Michael Kassen, a social studies teacher at Smith, said during the presentation. The next day at school, students either work on projects about the lesson, have analytical discussions about the material they learned the night before, or talk about questions they had stemming from the iPad learning.
“If they are listening to the basic lesson at home the night before, in class we can have discussions that go more in depth,” Kassen explained to the board.
Video tutorials made on the iPads by both students and teachers are also changing the way Ramsey students learn, Stephen Wren, a special education teacher, said.
Using a video tutorial of a physics experiment as an example, Wren explained that after doing a demonstration in class, teachers will create a video showing and explaining what the class learned that day.
“Students are able to literally put themselves back in the classroom,” he explained. “Something like a [physics lab] is a lot for a student to take in all at once. So, with the tutorial, students can go home to review,” what happened in class, and the concepts learned from the lab, he said.
On the flip side, students are also creating tutorials for teachers.
Kids “can explain their thinking and understanding,” of the lab,” Wren said. “It gives us an insight we didn’t have before.”
Students at the presentation said the devices help with organization, too. Lessons, notes, and assignments, are all in one place. And, since many assignments are submitted electronically, an excuse of losing an assignment is no longer viable in 8th grade classrooms.
“I can easily control all my documents,” Braiden Miller, an 8th grader, said during the presentation. “I know they won’t get lost.”
Special Education teacher Gina Aiello said the transition to an electronic, mostly paperless classroom, has been a big help to her students.
“For students who struggle, the biggest benefit has been organization,” she said.
Aiello added that the iPads are changing the culture of learning in Ramsey.
“There has been a change in the atmosphere,” inside Ramsey classrooms, she said. Walking through the hallways at Smith and glancing into iPad-equipped classrooms, “you don’t see things like a teacher lecturing and students taking notes as much. Students are taking ownership of their own learning.”
Teachers are encouraging students to “guide their own learning,” she said, which allows them to “take pride in what they are doing.”
Smith Principal Stacie Poelstra said the school is hosting meetings with students to collect anecdotal evidence about how the iPads are impacting learning, and working to collect formal input from students and teachers about the tech-savvy classrooms.
On a district level, Curriculum Coordinator Dr. Richard Weiner said Ramsey is taking the next steps to expand the initiative, which launched as a pilot this year.
A K-12 committee of teachers is investigating how the iPads might be used in all grade levels, the district is incorporating professional development courses on iPad teaching for all of its teachers, and Ramsey is focusing now on the transition to high school, he said. As 8th graders with iPads are getting ready to make the move to Ramsey High School, administrators are preparing to get the high school iPad ready, and determine the best way to spread the technology to other RHS students.