HARRIS - Bark River-Harris Schools began implementing new iPad labs within the district this school year and recently have created a new way of distributing the labs to teachers in the district.
Each of the two iPad labs, containing 30 devices apiece, were open to all teachers for use in the first marking period as a pilot, according to Bark River-Harris Superintendent Jason Lockwood. The district's goal was to find a way to use the devices in classrooms to improve learning and enhance teaching. The labs have now been awarded to four teachers through a grant application process offered through the district, he explained.
"All of the teachers in the school district had the opportunity to apply for one of the two labs," noted Lockwood. "We had separated it - one lab for the elementary and one lab for the junior and senior high."
Bark River-Harris High School students Aleesa Madalinski, left, and Alex Emmes, right, use two of the district’s new iPads while high school English teacher Ben Cartwright overlooks. The district distributed two iPad labs containing 30 devices apiece to four teachers through a grant application process. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
During the process, the teachers had to specify how the iPads would be used to enhance teaching, what apps would be used, and how they can tie those into the curriculum, said Lockwood.
First-grade teacher Leah Lesnieski was awarded one of the labs, while a group of three teachers in the high school, Ben Cartwright, Yvonne Mains, and Amanda Norkoli, co-authored a cross-curriculum, cross-grade level grant proposal.
"A key piece of the grant that needed to be very clearly specified in the application was 'How will these devices be used to improve learning and what data are you going to collect to assess whether or not students are more engaged and learning?'" said Lockwood. This information will then be used to determine whether similar technology should be purchased in the future.
Lesnieski said she's been using the iPads in her first grade class reading block to help students build and spell words and for other functions.
"I'm in the process of trying to set up a pen pal where we're going to use a photo card app, so we'll do electronic postcards for pen pals," she said. "Then in math we're doing it to practice any math skills - adding, subtracting, showing our work."
Students from Amanda Norkoli's Spanish class also come into Lesnieski's classroom once each month to teach her first-grade students Spanish using the devices.
Lesnieski also had her students take an assessment using the iPads which they will then take again at the end of the school year to determine how much growth they achieved.
"The push through the state is to do all these online assessments," said Lesnieski. "So it's good practice just using the iPads, getting them more comfortable for when they start those online assessments."
High School English teacher Ben Cartwright feels confident the iPads have made a difference at the high school level. Cartwright has been working with the devices in conjunction with Yvonne Mains.
"We're trying to continue to increase our state test scores and we're also trying to use the iPads as a tool to reach out to our non-traditional learners," he said. "Students who, in general, may not learn very well from listening to lecture, reading straight from the page, we're trying to reach those kids."
The iPads allow students to be independent learners and explore things on their own, allowing students to learn at a deeper level, said Cartwright. He noted one advantage in his classroom through the introduction of iPads has been communication through Google Documents, which has created a portable form of education.
"I can watch them work on their document. I can grade and offer feedback on their document. It's a constant process," said Cartwright. "The student can then go from using the iPad in my classroom to their home computer and use the Google set-up to be able to work on that same exact document we were working on in class."
High school juniors Aleesa Madalinski and Alex Emmes agreed using iPads has been beneficial to their learning.
"I'm more of a hands-on learner," said Madalinski. "I can learn better, I think, if I can see something and I can engage in it better than if I just write with pen and paper. It allows me to work at my own pace, because to me, I think I'm a slower learner than everybody else and when we're writing in pen and paper I feel like I'm rushed and I learn less."
Emmes agreed with Madalinski that the iPads help with the pace of learning without students feeling rushed.
"They help out a lot with online textbooks and interacting more, getting more comfortable with technology," he said.
Lockwood said the iPad technology has also been used in a unique circumstance where a student wasn't able to physically be in class. However, with the use of an iPad, she was able to view a live stream of the lesson as it happened in the classroom.
"To buy technology just because it's the latest fad is a poor decision for school districts to make, but if you're focused and you have goals in mind in what you are wanting to achieve through this technology, amazing things like what these teachers are doing happen," said Lockwood. "It's been impressive to watch."