NORWAY - Both students and teachers at Norway-Vulcan Area Schools are already seeing benefits from the school district's iPad initiative.
Since classes began in the fall, the school has gradually distributed iPad computer tablets to every student from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Students in kindergarten through second grade leave their iPads at school in a charging cart, while students in third grade through 12th grade have their own iPads to take home.
Jacqueline Leiker, technology instructor at Norway-Vulcan Area Schools, talks to kindergarten students about appropriate online behavior with their new iPads. Students pictured, from left, are Payton Paquette, Elliott Kraemer and Sean Kamin. (Iron Montain Daily News photo by Nikki Younk)
Science teacher Norma Raboin, center, shows sixth-grade students Bailey Zahn, left, and Raina Menghini how to research a project online with their iPads. All students at Norway-Vulcan Area Schools from kindergarten through 12th grade have now received their school-issued iPads. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Nikki Younk)
As of the end of January, all students have been issued their iPads.
According to Superintendent Lou Steigerwald, students and teachers are having no problem adjusting to the new technology.
Even the youngest children are embracing the change.
"Early elementary children are so native to technology," Steigerwald noted.
Elementary students can access programs on their iPads that allow them to learn subjects like spelling or multiplication in a game-like format.
"It makes it interesting for them," explained fourth-grade teacher Al Trudeau. "They absolutely love it."
Older students can use the iPads to access textbooks, coursework, and even their teachers' recorded lessons. Those without wireless Internet access at home can simply download all the material while at school, then store it in their iPads for review at home.
Steigerwald believes that getting students used to technology now will help them both in college and in the workforce. Students will learn how to find credible information online, correspond with people all over the world through programs like Skype, and create presentations using text, voice, and video, he said.
However, students are not the only ones benefiting from the iPads. Teachers are also using the technology to their advantage.
For sixth-grade teacher Norma Raboin, having personal, portable computers in the classroom saves time and eliminates scheduling conflicts.
"It's nice not to fight for the computer lab," she commented.
Trudeau pointed out that when students take quizzes on their iPads, he can instantly see the results. Not only does this free up time that he would otherwise spend grading, but it also allows him to see right away what the students are and are not understanding.
"The most valuable thing for a teacher is getting feedback," Steigerwald added. "This way, they can address problems immediately."
There have been some concerns that students will abuse their iPad privileges, but Steigerwald reported that no issues have arisen so far.
He emphasized that the school district has taken a proactive approach in teaching "digital citizenship" to students. Instead of restricting access to websites like Facebook or Twitter, the school has directed technology instructor Jacqueline Leiker to educate students about how to utilize the sites appropriately.
Just to make sure the students are behaving, school administrators have made use of a program that can show them exactly what the students are doing on their iPads.
"Everything they do, we can see," said Steigerwald.
The school district's iPad initiative was the result of a bond proposal that passed by a 1,333 to 1,255 vote in the November 2012 election.
Steigerwald said that the benefits of exposing students to new technology are worth the cost.
"Textbooks, videos, lectures, all this information is out there online," he said. "Why wouldn't we want our kids to access that?"