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iPads: One year later

Jeff Morris, math teacher and technology integrationist at Perham High School, shows his AP calculus students how to use a new study app, called “Khan Academy,” in class on Tuesday morning. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

Perham-Dent’s iEngage initiative continues, with mostly positive reviews

Year two of the iEngage program is underway in the Perham-Dent School District.

For the second time, all high school students, freshmen through seniors, have been entrusted with their own iPads for the year.

“We think it’s fantastic,” said Sandra Wieser-Matthews, one of two technology integrationists at the high school. “We love the fact that students have one-to-one iPad technology in their hands.”

Teachers seem to enjoy having the technology, as well.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever heard teachers say they’ve gotten something out of staff development,” said Jeff Morris, the second integrationist.

“Probably the biggest surprise of the technology initiative has been the ‘eagerness’ of staff to continue to move ahead with it,” wrote Superintendent Mitch Anderson in an email to the Focus. “I feared that many teachers would resist such an extreme change in the way we provide instruction to students. I’m amazed at how ‘hungry’ staff members have become for more.”

The initiative kicked off at the start of last school year, thanks to funds from a voter-approved levy.

This year, the iEngage goal is to encourage students to take part in creating their own learning experiences and collaborate with their teachers.

“In my class last week, I had the kids come up with their own math problem for something we were doing in calculus,” said Morris. “Then, they had to create a video for it, right on the iPad, then upload it to Moodle.”

“There, they were able to view each other’s videos and talk about them,” he continued. “Then, I told them that

out of the 40 videos we made, I was going to pick 10 of the problems to make a test. They not only created their own problem, their own video … they eventually created their own test.”

How did the class do?

“Really well,” said Morris. “Only one person made below 70 (percent).”

Math teacher Alyssa Rosenow also appreciates the opportunity created by iEngage. She uses the Educreations app in her classroom.

“It lets students see their words along with the writing,” explained Rosenow. “That gets the kids to step up to a whole new level of thinking by using another medium. They can be creative with it.”

Students expressed a mixture of thoughts about the iPads.

Generally, they liked how easy it is to access their homework. As long as they have their iPad, they said, worksheets and assignments won’t get lost. The days of heavy textbooks weighing down backpacks are also gone.

Other positive thoughts included convenience, the use of less paper and buying fewer school supplies.

However, students were also aware of the problems which come along with technology. There are occassional glitches, and some said they get headaches from looking at the screen for too long.

One of Morris’s AP calculus students, Jackie Hanson, admitted that, “I get distracted” by the iPad, making it hard to study.

Elizabeth Huwe,