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An iPad for the teacher

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

Teachers are always looking for opportunities to provide students with “hands-on” experience and encourage the type of “ah ha” moments kids need to realize their potential.

This week at Waccamaw Intermediate School it was the educators themselves who played the part of students, receiving training from Apple on the company’s iPad tablet and discovering how the device’s can improve student engagement and achievement in the classroom.

Eleven teachers from the intermediate school, and three from Waccamaw Middle, took part in the professional development, with the goal of beginning to unlock the potential for the iPad, as a platform for audio-visual media such as books, periodicals and web content in the classroom.

Following the training, the teachers began incorporating the iPad and its applications into their lesson plans. Their feedback will be used by Georgetown County School District to help determine what future purpose the device will have in the district.

“It was an honor to have teachers from our school be the ones who receive this training,” said Waccamaw Intermediate principal Tim Carnahan, whose school has been equipped with 30 iPads. “At the same time it is a big responsibility. We have to do our best to give the district the appropriate feedback.”

Teachers involved were already envisioning uses for the iPad and believe they will have a profound impact on student engagement.

“The kids may be teaching us,” Robin Krask, a fifth-grade teacher, said. “Many of them are used to working with this kind of technology. The iPads will open up so many more things and provide us much better access to what is out there.”

“I’m very excited,” said Becky Anderson, a fourth-grade teacher. “This is not the same old stuff students have seen before.

It’s newer, it’s cool, and I think they will really enjoy working with it.”

The mobility of the iPad is one of its attractions, as students need not trek to a traditional computer lab to use one, and its smaller size and lighter weight makes it much more portable than a laptop.

The abundance of available applications make it ideal for improving the skills for advanced, as well as underperforming, students.

“There are many different benefits for students,” Anderson said. “If you have students who are shy, they can respond to questions through the iPad and not in front of the entire class. And students who may be embarrassed about needing extra help can work on the individual applications they need without anyone else knowing what they are doing.”

Carnahan said teachers will ultimately be responsible for the benefits derived from having iPads in the classroom. He praised the school district for allowing for the professional development training.

“If you were just buying the iPads, you wouldn’t be doing a lot,” Carnahan said. “The district realizes this. Unless teachers understand the power of what can be done, and are able to hone their skills with the tool, the students won’t see any gains.

“Our staff was very excited to be part of the training. They were willing to give up their time to learn, and subsequently, help their students. I expect there will be quite a demand from the teachers involved in the training for access [to the iPads]. I’m sure there will be teachers wanting to check them out and use them in their classrooms as soon as possible.”

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