Adams School students glad to get hands on 58 new tablet computers

Adams School first-graders Hazel Miller, left, and Reyanna Butler watch a short film on an iPad Wednesday in their classroom. The school recently received 58 iPads to assist teachers in the learning process. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Apr. 17, 2014 9:06 am Updated: May. 1, 2014 10:14 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Students at Adams Elementary School are getting more exposure to modern technology thanks to the recent arrival of 58 iPads.

The tablet computers were bought with federal Title 1 funding at the request of Principal Marcey Wells.

Up until now, the school had only about five iPads, most of which were acquired by teachers through donations or grants. But Wells wanted to make a bigger impact on the school, so she opted to use some of the school's Title 1 allotment to get nearly five dozen iPads and two portable charging carts so the tablets can be moved from one location to another as needed.

"In order for our students to be competitive, they need to know how to use different technological devices," Wells said.

Wells wasted no time putting the new iPads to use. Even before all of the school's teachers could get formal training, the iPads were made available to any teacher who wanted to start using them to supplement their regular classroom activities.

Wells said some teachers with iPad experience quickly began using them for reading, writing, math, music and other classroom activities.

For example, some teachers have been using the iPads in their learning centers where students go from station to station to work on specific skills.

"Maybe a child just needs to do some repetition with a skill they haven't mastered yet, so a teacher can set up something for that individual," Wells said.

Some students have also been using the iPads for writing projects. Wells said teachers can then hook the devices to polyvision projectors so students can show their work to others as part of a classroom presentation.

"They can also work on their speaking skills while doing that," Wells said. "The technology is very engaging for them."

Sarah Guilford, the school's music teacher, has been using some of the iPads to help her students learn about composers and rhythm. For example, she will have students listen to John Philip Sousa marches while clapping their hands to rhythm patterns they hear.

"The kids can tap on the ‘Play' button of any of these marches and listen to the music. And as they listen to the music, they get to add their part to it," Guilford said.

Guilford said she's thrilled to give students a new way to learn about music.

"A really important part of the teaching process is for the kids to practice their things independently," she said. "This is a wonderful opportunity for kids to be exposed to the music of wonderful composers and for them to practice performing to be composers and arrangers."

One of Guilford's music students -- second-grader Cole Wagy, 8 -- said he has used an iPad previously but never in school.

"It's really cool," he said. "There are so many good things you can do."

First-grade teacher Ann Downey is also a big fan of having iPads in the classroom. She believes the devices can be powerful learning tools. Since last fall, she has been bringing two of her own iPads to school for her students to use. Since the school's new iPads arrived earlier this month, she's been checking out at least four a day so more kids can learn how to use them.

"The kids love them," Downey said.

She said the iPads are useful in numerous ways. She said some students use special applications to learn how to recognize and form words and letters. Others use the devices to help sharpen their reading and math skills.

While using the tablets in class, Downey lets students log into a private communication program for schools called Edmodo. This enables students to send text messages to her and other students, which is another way to develop reading and writing skills.

"They are very engaged when using the iPads," Downey said. "Everyone communicates now through technology, and being a first-grader and being able to do that is going to help them improve on their tests."

Xoria Mast, 7, loves being able to send and receive messages from her teacher and other students.

"I'd never really done that before," she said. "It's pretty cool."

Wells said several Quincy schools have been waiting to get more iPads, but Adams received its devices first because the district recently installed a wireless Internet system at the school.

Adams got wireless earlier than other elementary schools because two of its third-grade classrooms are slated to take part next month in field testing new state assessments that go into effect across Illinois in the 2014-15 school year. The school will use wireless laptops loaned from Quincy High School to fill out the tests.

"The reason we got our iPads earlier is we wanted to test our bandwidth," Wells explained. "If we have so many devices using the Internet at one time, we want to make sure we can handle the bandwidth."