Famed science-fiction novelist William Gibson believes the future we’ve all imagined is here in the present. For Clark County students, that might just prove true.
In December, the Clark County Board of Education voted to award each school in the system $22,000 to use as the staff saw fit. Central Elementary elected to purchase 32 iPad minis. Those are already being put to use in the classrooms.
“The kids are really engaged with those,” Central Elementary Principal Lisa Smith said. “I’m excited to have those.”
And while some critics of technology have claimed that it can distance humans from one another, Central Elementary and Conkwright Middle are disproving that notion. Students from Jessica Pedigo’s fourth-grade class were able to work on a math problem in their homeroom with members of the Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP), who were using computers in Conkwright’s media center Tuesday morning.
“They posted a math question and these kids answer it,” Clark technology teacher Joanna Clarke said. “And then they (STLP) will give them feedback.”
The fourth grade students are using the brand new iPad minis, a sleeker version of the iPad, through a program called Edmodo.
Edmodo works very much like Facebook but is geared toward educational uses, like collaborating on schoolwork or sharing educational content. On Tuesday, students answered a question and STLP members, all seventh graders just up the street at Conkwright, corrected some answers and explained why or confirmed the right answers.
“We collaborate with the teacher,” Conkwright librarian Damonica Partin said. Partin has run the STLP for eight years. “We’ve done whatever the teacher has needed of us. We’ve learned how to do it, then we go and teach the students.”
Tuesday was the first time the STLP and the students worked only through the new technology. Previously, the STLP has come to the classroom and instructed the younger students with a more hands-on approach.
“We helped them with their projects while they did power-point presentations,” Conkwright seventh-grader and STLP member Whitney Walker said. “Now we’re helping them figure out the answers for math problems.”
There are plenty of safety nets in the technology, too. The Edmodo program tracks the activities of the students and sends a notification to instructors.
“I can monitor them,” Pedigo said. “Just now my phone beeped like a text and said, ‘You have 58 notifications from Edmodo’ because they’re all doing something.”
Pedigo can monitor more than just their Edmodo habits. She can also make use of a program called ClassDojo, which “captures and generates date on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators,” according to the application’s website.
Pedigo said the kinks are still being worked out with such a program, but emails can be sent to parents with data about a student’s classroom behavior.
“This doesn’t count against them, but if a parent comes in, we can use this,” she said. “This lets kids keep up with not only their homework but their own behavior.”
The classroom tools available go well beyond that, in particular with the iPad minis, as Smith points out.
“We can put school books on there with hot links in the text and embedded videos — interactive text books,” she said. “And they’ll never have outdated textbooks. Textbooks are expensive and these are downloadable.”
Smith said the staff is very careful about what apps and programs can be used on the iPad minis, screening them and ensuring they are used only for education.
While this technology for current students far exceeds what most of these students’ parents and grandparents had available while in school, the generation gap starts to widen even for those who are still students.
“They’re starting to use iPad minis and we didn’t have five or six teachers in a room to help as and they do now,” STLP member and Conkwright seventh-grader Emma Mitmesser said.
Contact Casey Castle at firstname.lastname@example.org.