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Fun, games and learning

Anton Biederman plays a round of ‘Scatter’ on the Quizlet app. In ‘Scatter,’ students are timed on how quickly they can match the vocabulary word to its definition. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS 1 / 3
Isabella Wimmer and the other students in Kim Flatau’s first-grade class use the Sight Words app to see, hear and write new words. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS 2 / 3
Students in Darrel Pederson’s sixth-grade class use the ‘Study Island’ and ‘Spelling City’ apps to practice the week’s vocabulary and spelling words. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS3 / 3

Who says learning has to be all hard work?

Not first-grader Isabella Wimmer, who was all smiles in class last week as she used an app called Sight Words to pronounce and write words using an iPad.

 “We can enhance so much of our learning time by letting kids use them,” said Kim Flatau, Isabella’s first-grade teacher at Heart of the Lakes Elementary, of the iPads. “It’s a different way to learn; there’s more motivation, instead of using flash cards and drills.”

Perham High School receives most of the attention for the school district’s iEngage initiative, due to its one-to-one student-to-iPad ratio. However, that doesn’t mean the younger grades are staying behind in the paper-bound age.

“It’s great,” said Flatau of iEngage. “We have a fabulous program, but sometimes it can be hard to coordinate the iPads when doing a whole-class activity.”

Since voters passed a technology levy in 2011, carts of 30 iPads have been shared between the class sections in kindergarten through eighth grades.

Deanna Kovash, an iPad specialist for the elementary and middle schools, said the carts are a unique challenge to maintain.

Updates can be particularly time consuming for the technology staff. The K-8 iPads aren’t connected to a network like those at the high school, so each update and new app must be installed manually – one unit at a time.

According to teachers and students, the benefits of having the technology available make up for the irritations.

Darrell Pederson, who teaches sixth grade, uses several apps in his class.

“It takes seeing a new word 20 times to commit it to your long-term memory,” he explained. “With the iPads, they can see the week’s words over 50 times.”

Seventh grade teacher Mallory Stoderl also said the iPads provide more than just fun.

“They see the cart in my room and they’re like, ‘Yay! We get to use iPads today!’” Stoderl said of her students. “It gets them involved. They can have a bit of fun when doing math, which can be hard to do.”

Ann Kostynick echoed the positive feelings toward the iPads.

“I didn’t want it to be like ‘go play a game,’” she said. “For first-graders, it can be so much more. Kids can do more than we think with them. They’re fast learners and capable of much more than we realize.”

“There is more of an ease among the staff this year,” said Kovash. “Teachers have been great about exploring options. They know what they’re doing and what apps they like. I get really fired up when I get an email saying ‘I want to do this.’”

Elizabeth Huwe, Perham Focus