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Apps that count iPads add new learning experiences to PHS math classes

Connie Vandermay/FOCUS Perham High School senior Tanya Berns reads through her results after a pop quiz in Jeff Morris's calculus class last week.

In the first couple months of the one-to-one iPad initiative at Perham High School, the process has been trial and error for many teachers and students.

Teachers wondered which projects to try electronically and which software, also known as apps, would help emphasize daily lessons.

Three months into the year, at the start of second trimester, there are a couple things the math department has figured out.

Tests, assignments and notes can easily be taken electronically, and a handful of apps make the math world an easier place to learn.

Teacher Jeff Morris, for example, no longer needs to print out tests for his calculus students and then take them home and grade them. Instead, he directs students to a 549 Online site, where his test questions have already been uploaded and students can quickly and easily take the test - and see their results.

Last Friday morning, he directed students to the site to take a 20-question timed quiz. Six minutes later, some students had already finished their quizzes and were seeing how they did.

Senior Tanya Berns looked at her score and said, "It's nice to see results right away."

Besides the immediate feedback, taking a test online has other benefits. Since the quiz questions are chosen at random, it eliminates any impulse to peek at a neighbor's test. Morris also saves time on grading and uses a lot less paper.

Morris's class and most of the math department have come to love the power of iPad apps. Some of the big ones used on a daily basis are Notability, Explain Everything and Nearpod.

Notability has been used since the beginning of the year. Students use Notability to complete their assignments.

"They can, with the use of Notability, annotate and manipulate my notes and complete homework assignments digitally," Morris said. 

When they're done, students upload the completed assignment back to 549 Online.

"It becomes their digital resource," Morris said. Assignments and notes remain on 549 Online for reference.

The Explain Everything app allows a teacher to create videos about different lessons. Students with homework problems can turn to the videos at home.

One benefit for Morris has been less class time spent answering questions. He said, "Instead of spending the 20-30 minutes of class time covering homework, I can upload a video explaining a homework problem and then use the class time to get through more content."

In the last couple weeks, Morris also began using the Nearpod app in his class. Nearpod links all iPads in the classroom together virtually, giving the teacher control over every screen.

Nearpod's benefit is simple - it keeps everyone on the same page.

Last Friday, Morris put a math problem on a slide and transferred it out to all the student iPads. Using a stylus, students worked right on the screen, and then submitted the problem back to Morris's iPad to view.

Morris was then able to look through the student content, pick an example, and send that back out to all the student iPads, essentially getting all students engaged in the process during his lecture.

If a student tried to leave Nearpod, an alert immediately showed up on Morris's screen.

Over the last few months, Morris has learned another important trick about using the iPads - when there's a technology glitch, the best thing to do is to adjust and move on to another plan.

So when the students weren't able to submit their problems last Friday because of a technology issue, the class instead talked through the problems together.

By all accounts, utilizing iPads in the classroom has been a learning experience for both students and teachers.

And even with occasional technology issues, kids say there are fewer issues now then there were at the beginning of the year, which is a sign of progress.