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Carthage Central School piloting iPads in classrooms

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The way children become engaged with iPods, iPads and other touch-screen devices is almost surpassing the technological aptitude of parents and teachers.

As a result, Carthage Central School instructional technology specialist Fred R. Donato said the school is piloting a program to bring iPads into classrooms to aid in math and English language arts instruction.

“It’s really something to see when you give a kid in kindergarten an iPad. They become completely engaged,” Mr. Donato said.

Carthage rolled out the program for teachers in mid-January and has been letting them explore how they can use these devices in their classrooms. At Carthage Elementary School, some teachers are piloting the use of iPads. The pilot classrooms receive an iPad for the teacher and four for student use. Many educational apps are already installed.

“There are a lot of things they can do with the iPads but at the same time, these devices don’t have the same capabilities as laptops,” Mr. Donato said. “We wanted to give them to a few teachers so they can share some of the positives and negatives.”

Through a state Education Department grant, the school was able to purchase 172 iPads that have been integrated into 30 classrooms in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Mr. Donato said 593 students get to use the devices throughout the day, rotating from classroom to classroom.

But the students aren’t using the iPads for Angry Birds games. Mr. Donato said that game, and many others, are blocked from student access.

“Some classes use the iPads strictly for the apps. There are different apps for each grade to practice math and English language arts skills,” Mr. Donato said.

Popular apps include:

n FlashToPass Free Math Flash Cards, which help teach addition, multiplication, subtraction and division

n Math Puppy, a bingo-challenge educational game

n StoryLines for Schools, a vocabulary builder

n Who Can Read? which is preloaded with age-appropriate books that can be read with or without audio help, and

n Scholastic Storia, a free eReader app for Scholastic books.

For grades 3 and 4, Mr. Donato said, teachers use other apps such as Aurasma, an image reader that allows teachers to set up visual cues in the classroom that will trigger the opening of a website, video or document on the iPad when scanned with the camera.

Mr. Donato said the Aurasma app allows teachers to embed notes, links and cues over electronic documents from many sources.

“These are just some of the free apps they are using. We do have many paid apps that they are and will be using, also,” Mr. Donato said. “The teachers control different elements in the classroom using these apps and use them with their lessons.”

The push toward using the the iPads is to allow district officials to measure how user-friendly the devices are and figure out ways to integrate them into the current curriculum.

“These devices aren’t like computers and they can’t do a lot of things computers can,” said Mr. Donato. “They can’t easily connect to our printers because we don’t have wireless printers, the students’ individual progress can’t be tracked when you have three different kids using the same device in the same day and you can’t get data from it easily.”

Mr. Donato said that if the program is successful, the district will expand it to additional classrooms.

“We have iPads available in other grade levels, but we want to start at the kindergarten and fourth-grade level so we can introduce technology literacy at the young age,” Mr. Donato said. “There isn’t just one way these iPads can be used in the classroom; they can be used in conjunction with a lesson or as a separate learning and practice tool.”

The teachers at the school will meet in the next few weeks to evaluate the progress of the program.

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