At Naselle High School, there is a prevailing philosophy about effective instruction: meet the kids where they are — find out what interests them and adjust your instructional practice to meet the needs of many different learning styles. Teachers understand that kids embrace communication, creative and gaming technologies, and that the online environment is a natural extension of their personal and school life.
Pass says teachers are maintaining a watchful, open mind with this new technology. “It’s still early but looking positive — it appears that the iPads are exceeding our expectations as a tool to boost academic achievement and create real interest in learning.”
Ask any freshman or sophomore at Naselle High School about the iPads and most will say that learning is more fun and easier. Drill down and you find out that “fun” sources from the boundless nature and dynamic presentation of information on the computer. “Easier” translates out to portability and versatility, exemplified by applications, such as NoteTaker, that eliminate lost homework and organize thinking.
There is also a practical side to a compact iPad and kids are quick to point this out. Asked what he likes best about the iPad, one young freshman quipped, “Being able to be paperless, not having a lot of loose files in my binder, and best of all, the feeling of having something awesome.” Another stated, “The iPads make it easy to look up words and cut down on all the stuff you have to take home for math. You don't have to take home your paper, calculator and math book. Now, we just take home our math book and iPad.”
Locker space counts, too, and the iPads make more of it, but a consistent theme among these young iPad users is the streamlining of instructional materials, backpack clutter and the device as one-stop-shop for classroom assignments, activities and resources. “We use the iPads in math for doing our assignments and we don't even bring paper and pencils to class anymore,” according to one student who was happy to lighten her backpack load. “We even turn in our papers online so the whole math class is electronic. In science, it’s easy to look something up on the Internet, such as the periodic table. In English we read books on the Internet.”
And of course, it is not lost on Naselle freshmen and sophomores just how much more information and media is available to them through the iPad. From another student, “Our teacher is always saying how we are reading things that no other freshmen class has read because we don't have to limit ourselves to the books he has.”
Rolling carts equipped with 30 MacBooks also stand ready for instructional use. It comes as no surprise that the ubiquitous nature of technology at Naselle High School corresponds to a district policy flexible enough to meet an individual need. Says Pass, “We have a student with an IEP, who was really tickled that the MacBook could read his history text out loud. This kid is sharp with technology but struggles with reading. He’s got it set up so the laptop reads the text while he accesses the dictionary. He was so thankful! We’ll provide this essential learning tool 24 X 7 for him.”
Technology has unlocked the confines of home geography for Naselle third graders. Students use the iPal platform to communicate and work with peers in New Jersey and California. Soon, they will be collaborating with a class in Europe or Asia. These students are establishing strong technological skills at an early age. They enjoy the process of mastery and talk excitedly about uploading their assignments to a folder on the server so the teacher can correct the work. Then, everyone goes back into the folder and downloads corrected assignments. Listen firsthand to Jack and Abby talk about their class work — third video down the page.
Assistant principal, Jon Tienhaara reports that kids take greater ownership in their education when they can learn with the tools they use everyday. “The applications we load onto the iPads make it possible for these portable devices to replace desktop computers and laptops. And the interactive features of the iPad open up new ways to learn and study.” Each iPad comes in its own case with the student’s name engraved on it. Says Tienhaara, “The kids are very proud of their iPads and take very good care of them.”
It is not lost on the educators at Naselle-Grays River School District how quickly students pick up the basics of complex digital technologies and experiment to learn. Pass is very proud of two junior students working with the Columbia River Estuary Study Partnership this past summer who made a video that documents their experience. They blended stills, video and commentary to create a meaningful learning artifact — their first year out with the MacBooks. And, he points out that students at multiple grade levels are creating inspired educational videos using iMovie, photos and their own voice to show us what they know and can do in the subject areas.
Superintendent Rick Pass gave us classroom-level specifics when we asked about the interest and enthusiasm level of his teaching staff. He notes that both students and teachers want iPads. The devices seem to have the right combination of power and versatility. Keep in mind, his teachers are not strangers to technology — each set of grade levels, K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 already has a rolling lab of 30 MacBooks in constant demand. Because he works closely with his staff, Pass is able to observe and hear, firsthand, how teachers are integrating the new technology. He shared several of his observations.
- Math teachers hook the iPad to a projector and write their instructional notes just as they would on a board or document camera. Once the lesson is over, they PDF the notes and email them to the class. The iPad does nearly everything a traditional laptop can do, it’s just easier to manage and use.
- Teachers supported fifth-graders as they joined the state’s online pilot test for writing. The kids knew all about logging on and what it means. Everyone completed the test successfully.
- Teachers with students in grades 7 and 8 use MacBooks for instruction in health, math, social studies and science.
- A ninth-grade teacher has integrated the iPads into PE class. She uses an application that allows the kids to measure heart and breathing rates while they reference the national PE fitness standards online. Interactive features keep the students engaged throughout fitness tests. Compiled and organized within an application, the technology works as a real time-saver for the teacher.
- All freshman teachers are using the iPads, coming into technology integration at their own pace. Science is a classroom where the teacher is leveraging the enormous potential of the iPads to engage student interest and extend learning beyond the classroom. However in language arts, the teacher is new to the technology and learning how to maximize its potential to motivate his students. He can see what an advantage he has in a room full of tech-savvy kids and has offered extra credit to any student who can teach him something about the technology he doesn’t know already.
- The freshman Spanish class is using the iPad to play back phrases spoken in Spanish.
- The director of special education is thrilled with the new iPads. She is just beginning to discover how well children with learning disabilities respond to the portable computers and is eager to share her experience with fellow teachers.
The need to prepare students for a changing world of work and employment opportunities in a global economy is felt by all education leaders. The decision to pursue technology integration is a calculated strategy for empowering the children of the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District. The drive to find a way to help our students compete with the best and brightest from all over the world propels us to provide the most enriching education possible. Technology allows us to bring the world to Naselle.
—Superintendent Rick Pass, Naselle-Grays School District, from his blog entry on the first day of the 2010-2011 school year.