For anyone still wondering whether technology enhances learning, just step inside a classroom where iPads are used.
For Billings Catholic Schools, the push to get more iPads into students’ hands has resulted in some second-graders jumping almost a year ahead in math. Central Catholic High School students like Hunter Harrison are having the “best year ever.”
Tim Lowe, education and curriculum director for Billings Catholic Schools, said money raised during the 2013 Mayfair auction helped the district purchase iPads for four classes of up to 25 students each. The upcoming Mayfair fundraiser will help the district purchase additional iPads for the 2014-15 school year. The Mayfair Fun Night is May 2 and the Mayfair Gala Dinner and Auction is May 3. For ticket information, call 252-0252.
Lowe said he is impressed with the results of the pilot classrooms, which include a second-grade class, a science class provided for students in third, fourth and fifth grade, a middle school class, and a high school class for juniors and seniors.
“One of the biggest struggles for the modern classroom is, you have a classroom where you are teaching to the average,” Lowe said. “You have all these kids and the challenge is monitoring them, making sure they are progressing in their various groups. The iPads allow a little better assessment.”
Lowe said the surprise this year was discovering that students showing up for kindergarten had been using iPads for as many as two years.
“It’s not the jump that we thought it was,” Lowe said of the distribution of iPads. “At high school,
we just handed the kids iPads and they have them throughout the school day. They can use it as an education efficiency tool. At the high school level, you can see the independence happen.”
Shane Fairbanks, who teaches an AP European History class, believes the iPads help him gear the class more toward 21st century learners.
“Part of the push behind state and national curriculum changes has been to emphasize great student application of what they learn, rather than simply an accumulation of facts,” Fairbanks said. “The iPads allow me to cruise through curriculum at a pace that is both interesting and informative, which frees up some time to have students complete assignments, research projects, writing assignments, and group presentations in ways that would have been impossible to do without the iPads.”
Parents initially brought up the desire to district officials to see more personal technology available to students in the classroom, Lowe said.
“We are still doing the if-it-makes-sense approach,” Lowe said. “There is always that reflection process. We don’t want to make it technology for the sake of technology. The world we are living in, technology is not going away.”
St. Francis Primary second-grade teacher Erika Schaff said iPads don’t replace classroom teachers but expand their reach. Students in her class can work at their own pace in areas of math and reading.
“The possibilities are endless,” Schaff said.
Schaff said she has researched 50 different apps for the iPad that can be used in her classroom.
“Technology is my passion,” Schaff said.
Fairbanks said students use their iPads for note-taking and reviewing classroom lectures, but after they have completed that portion of the class, they complete interactive projects.
“They do mock trials, historical pamphlets, document analysis, and research galore — all made possible by the iPads,” Fairbanks said.
Central High student Cate Klaudt wrote a persuasive essay for her English class about why iPads should be integrated into all classes.
“A device that uses little paper, shares information effectively amongst others, matches current technology within the classroom, and can be restricted to fit the needs of the school is a revolutionary device indeed,” Klaudt wrote.