HARRIS - Students and teachers at Bark River-Harris Schools will have a new tool to work toward improving teaching and student learning this year - in the form of more than 100 Apple iPad devices.
According to Bark River-Harris Superintendent Jason Lockwood, each of the district's teachers has received an iPad, while some will go toward two mobile labs consisting of 30 iPad devices in each.
"Those are going to be for classroom use, student use, and then we have seven additional devices that we have to check out if students want to check them out, or if we have maybe some support staff members that want to use them," said Lockwood. "We have some extra available for whatever comes along."
Bark River-Harris Schools fourth-grade teacher Kristie Latsch, left, and Elementary Principal Kelly Harvey use one of the school district’s recently
purchased iPads. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
The 107 total devices were approved for purchase by the Bark River-Harris School Board and will go toward implementing the district's new technology plan, since its previous plan was set to expire. Lockwood said the new technology plan has moved much more rapidly than he has anticipated.
"I looked at what we have, looked at what our needs are, and basically outlined a pretty basic three-year technology plan that incorporates wireless technology, the infrastructure, professional development for teachers, and the devices and how we can incorporate those things together," he said.
The district will collect data over the course of the iPad's first year to see what impact they have on improved teaching and improved student learning.
"We know that we want to continue to improve and use technology to help improve student learning, so it's exciting and the board's very committed to improving and expanding," he said.
Kristie Latsch, a fourth-grade teacher at Bark River-Harris, said one area she wants to focus on when searching for iPad apps to use in the classroom is in math.
"I think the first apps that I'm going to look for are probably math," she said. "I want to get out there and see what's available - not just for instruction but also for kids that need a little boost, so maybe some remedial apps that they can practice skills where they have weakness to get caught up as well."
Science is another subject she'll be searching for, but she hopes the apps will also lead her to other areas of learning too.
Bark River-Harris Elementary Principal Kelly Harvey noted the literacy component is another aspect to focus on as well.
"The literacy component too - I think anything that we can pull into our interventions and just support our students that way as far as what we find on the apps," said Harvey.
Latsch hopes the iPads will enhance instruction.
"I'm still going to stay the same teacher that I am, but I'm hoping to bring that extra element, almost bringing in their language to them because there are so many kids already that are playing with these at home and using these daily, that this is just another means of communication for me with them," she said.
Latsch noted with many students having the devices at home, the iPads are a great way for students to practice different skills while not in school.
She also hopes using the iPads can engage students and reach both ends of the learning spectrum for kids ready to move on to the next step and to help bridge the gap between advanced students and those who are struggling.
"I think it's going to be a really exciting tool," said Latsch. "I think that the more we learn, the more we use, the more we're going to get out of it. This is our start. I can only imagine it getting better as we have more experience."
Harvey noted the teachers will be supported along the way with trainings and building a "professional learning community" to collaborate and share as the new devices may be a learning curve for some.
"I think a key in education is staying relevant with your learners and ... it's so imperative to teach in a way that the students grasp," added Lockwood. "As educators, if we don't start to incorporate these devices and making learning relevant to our students, we're going to miss a whole bunch of learners. It's just the way of the future. It is very exciting."