EL-G students to get iPads

by Abby Lynn Harvey of The Review staff

ELKHART LAKE- After lengthy discussion the Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah School Board voted unanimously to approve to an pilot program integrating iPads in the seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms at their March 18 meeting.

The program, which was initially presented to the board at their February meeting, would provide each student in the seventh- and eighthgrades with an iPad which would be used both in the classroom as well as taken home by the students to complete homework and other tasks. The iPad would essentially be treated as a textbook and would be in the student’s ownership for the school year.

A panel consisting of Angie Roth, special education teacher at Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah School District; Abbie Ward, technology coach at Riverview Middle School in Plymouth; and Deb Hammann, Elementary/ Middle School principal, presented support for the pilot program and answered questions from the board.

Board member Scott Heinig voiced several concerns with the implementation of the program.

“I still need a lot of convincing and again, I’m not saying I can’t be convinced,” Heinig said early in the discussion, “I really admire and like the enthusiasm.” Heinig eventually voted in support of the program.

The panel shared several examples of the uses of technology in the classroom. Ward, who uses Netbooks in her classroom and lives in the Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah district, stated that the adoption of technology into the classroom will have lasting affects on the district.

“The cost of not doing something soon could be dramatic,” she said. “You’re looking at a parent who has two children in the school district that would seriously consider the alternatives if the instruction isn’t changed to more 21st century learning to prepare them for the jobs that don’t even exist right now, that they’re going to have when they leave this school.”

Changes in the use of technology in the public system across the state were noted. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has recently added Information and Technology Literacy to the common core standards. Looking forward more changes will be made.

“Our old WKCE, which was hand-written is going to be no more,” Ward explained. “It’s going to be the Smarter Balance Assessment, which is all on the computer. They will not be able to hand write any response.”

This shocked Heinig, who expressed displeasure with the loss of more traditional teaching and learning styles.

“To me that’s unacceptable,” he stated. “We are accepting technology now but we’re not accepting the traditional method also and that’s one of the things that bothers and scares me. You either conform to what we’ve dictated that you have to do or somehow you’re lesser than we were before. There’s a problem there.”

Common learning styles for children who have been brought up around technology were addressed.

“No matter where I am, if I don’t know something I go wherever I need to go to bring that knowledge to me,” Ward said. “I think so many of our kids are used to that and they walk in the building and that entire process of how they learn is stopped at the door, because the technology they have in their hands isn’t there.”

How teaching will have to adapt with the integration of technology into the classroom was stressed. Heinig questioned why the addition of technology in the classroom has been the catalyst for more collaborative teaching.

“Teachers are starting to change and starting to do what they should have been doing for the last 50 years,” he said. “They’re getting up, they’re moving, they’re collaborating, they’re doing group activities and that kind of stuff because they’re being forced to because the computers are doing it and they’re trying to keep up, which I think is marvelous, because all the things that the computer is doing, we should have been, and great teachers were doing it”

The implementation of the pilot was called into question as technology changes quickly, and a longterm plan has been put into place.

In order to form a back-up plan the technology committee settled on the iPad as the device of choice because if it is not found to be useful at the seventh and eighth grade level it can be easily used in the lower grades.

“Learning changes and this a tool - not a toy, but a tool - that our kids need to advance,” District Administrator Ann Buechel Haack said.

High School Principal Todd Timm presented guidelines for a high school “Bring your own device” program. With this program, students would be welcome to bring devices to school although misuse – for example messaging friends during class – would hold consequences.

Timm also presented a preliminary plan to transition the High School Library into a more technology based learning hub.

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