HJ - Garfield iPads

Garfield Elementary students read lesson material on an iPad during the school year. This year is the third and final phase of Clarinda implementing the computer tablets into all of the buildings. Unlike Clarinda Middle School and Clarinda High School students, Garfield students do not take the tablets home after the school day. (Garfield Elementary photo)

Clarinda has successfully completed the rollout of its one-to-one initiative to provide every student in the school district with their own iPad.

The process started during the 2017-2018 school year as students at Clarinda Middle School were issued their tablets. Last year, iPads were issued to students at Clarinda High School. Then, in the final phase of the process, the students at Garfield Elementary School were issued iPads to start the current school year.

“It was a very smooth rollout. To make sure the kids were ready to go on the first day our staff did a lot of work over the summer preparing to make sure it was a smooth transition. One of the outstanding features of our school district is everyone pitches in to do what needs to be done,” Garfield Elementary School Principal Cynthia Opperman said.

There are approximately 450 students enrolled at the school this year ranging from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. However, unlike students at Clarinda Middle School and Clarinda High School, the elementary students do not take their devices home with them.

“Luckily, discipline wise, we have not had issues with improper use of the devices by the younger kids,” Opperman said.

Instead, the iPads are used as part of an instructional rotation and to support large group instruction. Although students at Garfield Elementary had access to technology in the past, Instructional Leader Cassie Eberly said having a specific device for each student provides an enriched learning experience for all of the students.

“The greatest impact we have seen is the second, third and fourth graders having devices in their classroom all the time. Before, the upper grade levels relied on Chromebooks, that were shoddy at best and computer labs,” Eberly said. “Our kindergartners and first graders used iPads some in the classroom last year, but we were probably not using them to the extent we could have.”

To remedy that situation, the teachers and staff at Garfield Elementary School had an opportunity to visit the Liberty, Missouri, School District last year. The district had a one-to-one initiative in place for the past five years.

During the visit, the Clarinda personnel had a chance to visit four different elementary schools to see how they were utilizing iPads in the classroom. They also met with instructional leaders, teachers and the district superintendent to learn the best practices to be implemented in Clarinda.

Eberly said the Clarinda teachers and staff were also able to familiarize themselves with a management system, Seesaw, that works well for elementary students. The system provides students with their own work folder where they can record or watch and listen to audio and video files as part of class activities.

As an example, Opperman said teachers can record their spelling words for the week. The students can then access the file and listen to the words as often as they like.

“It gives us more opportunity for high level instruction for the whole class,” Opperman said.

“It also allows for differentiation between the words to meet the needs of special education students. A teacher can give multiple spelling tests at the same time since they don’t have to work with the whole group,” Eberly said.

Seesaw also offers a method of communication between parents and teachers. Eberly said parents with children in third grade or younger can see photos of what the students are doing in class. Like Facebook, the parents may then like or comment on the photos.

“The big takeaway for us from the visit was learning how we could use that platform to facilitate learning,” Eberly said.

Meanwhile, fourth grade students are using the Schoology platform to coordinate the communication between parents, teachers and students. This is the same platform used by students at Clarinda Middle School and Clarinda High School.

Despite the success of the rollout at Garfield Elementary School, Eberly said the teachers and staff are still exploring ways to further expand then use of the iPads and other technology in the classroom.

Eberly said she applied for a grant from the Cardinal Fund to purchase a green screen and recording equipment for the elementary school. This would allow the students to create a news program or videos with their business sponsors in the Adopt a Class program.

Technology Integrationist Joni Ehm of the Area Education Agency will also be visiting the school each month. Ehm will assist teachers in implementing technology into their lesson plan and using technology to enhance classroom management.

“I think our elementary teachers are pretty adaptable. They have felt blessed to have the opportunity to use the iPads with every kid so they could improve classroom management and differentiate instruction with the assistance of the iPads,” Opperman said. “We want to give our students a well rounded education, but time can become limited. In that case, the iPad becomes a time saving tool because of its time management application. It is a tool like a textbook used to be. Technology is not going to replace teachers. Education is still based on relationships. You have the best success when you have a strong curriculum to go along with those strong relationships.”

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