Third-grade students at the Upper Pittsgrove School mastered fractions in Mrs. Markert class Friday afternoon not by memorization or flash cards, but with Apple iPads.

School districts throughout Salem County have now entered the age of technology using the touch sensitive innovative device as a learning tool for students.

Superintendents say they are attracted to the devices for two reasons: It’s user friendly and inexpensive compared to other technology like laptops.
041511 upitts ipads04.jpgUpper Pittsgrove Township School 3rd grade students Madison Smith, right, and Brennan Richmond work on fractions using iPads Friday afternoon. 

The iPad, one of Apple’s newest innovations, is a multi-touch screen interface that operates much like a computer, but is small enough and light enough to carry around like a book.

The Upper Pittsgrove School District currently utilizes 50 iPads. The district purchased the iPads this summer and they are still working against the learning curve that comes with new technology.

“For the younger students, it’s an exciting new option,” said Upper Pittsgrove School Superintendent Dr. Robert Bazzel. “There are so many apps out there.”

Bazzel said another plus side is the price. In most cases, each iPad costs the district just $500.

 “The iPads also have presented no problems breaking down because of viruses,” he added.

Renee Markert’s third-grade class has been using the iPad to learn fractions. 

Katie Dailyda, 9, was using the PizzaMath app while in class, which helps the students learn how to identify fractions by matching the correct fraction with the number of pizza slices on a plate.

After each problem, the students then shake the iPad to bring up another problem to be solved.

Katie said she was excited to have access to the iPads this school year.

“They are really easy to use — it took me like two minutes to figure out,” said Katie. “I like using the PizzaMath app.”

Ronnie Heaney, 8, said he liked using the iPads in class, as well.

“It has been fun using them in class,” said Heaney. “It helps with learning fractions.”

Though its potential in the classroom has proven to be limitless, what makes the iPad all the better is the educational compatibility it has for special-education students.

Superintendent of Schools for the Pennsville School District Dr. Mark Jones said they made the leap to purchase a few iPads for the 2010-2011 school year.

“I know that several students showing signs of autism are actively using the iPad as part of the education process,” said Jones.

He said what impressed him the most about the technology was its user-friendly interface.

“When we first invested in these for the classroom, we were not sure how they would impact education,” said Jones. “We are just excited with how the students are taking to the different applications and the positive influence in the classroom.”

Karen Driscoll, supervisor for the Pennsville School District Child Study Team, said the iPads were obtained by using funds from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act grant.

“We have six iPads now. The idea originally came from our speech and language specialist who talked about using it as therapy with students,” said Driscoll. “She began investigating the apps, and they are so inexpensive — many of them are free and others are just 99 cents.”

Applications or “apps” are different programs that can be downloaded to the iPad. Each app is like its own computer program that is purchased then downloaded directly to the device. The iPad can also access the Internet to let students surf the Web for research.
Driscoll said next year they hope to pilot the iPads for a whole class of special-education students.

“It’s exciting to see us really opening the door for our special-education students,” said Driscoll. “It really is an amazing device. The apps you can use are endless.”

Technology Trainer at the Salem County Special Services School District John Kidd has worked with teachers to pinpoint educational apps.

TapToTalk, a free app, turns the iPad into an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. Kidd said children who have a hard time with speaking can use the application to tap on a picture and the iPad will say the word.

Another free app called Model Me Going Places is a great visual teaching tool for helping children learn to navigate challenging locations in the community. Each location contains a photo slide show of children modeling appropriate behavior.

The places include the hairdresser, mall, doctor, playground, grocery store, and restaurant.

Kidd said this has especially been useful for autistic students who often times become apprehensive about unknown environments.

The district is awaiting the release of an app for Bookshare. The program allows members to download books, textbooks and newspapers. They then read the material using adaptive technology, typically software that reads the book aloud and displays the text of the book on a computer screen.

“We have worked to bring more Apple technologies to the special service district,” said 
Superintendent of the Salem County Special Services School District Dr. Loren Thomas. “Apple takes an innovative approach and they are open to teaching how their technologies can be utilized in the classroom.”

Kidd, who also moderates a district-wide blog, said he was amazed with how user 
friendly the technology is, even for severely challenged students.

He said he remembered the first time he let one of the autistic students in the school use the iPad.

“One of the students showed interest and when I gave it to her she sat for over 20 minutes engaged in the device,” said Kidd. “Her teacher said she has never sat for that long in the classroom.”


By Phil Dunn / Today's Sunbeam 

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