Ditching paper for iPads at Kickemuit Middle School

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ipad-boy ipads-kids2With a quick swipe of her finger, then a tap, and click, Makayla Soares began her rock cycle journey — on her iPad.

She motioned to her Optimus teammate Katie Sousa, to lower the gray metamorphic rock in her hand.

Makayla tapped her iPad again to take a photo of the rock.

The girls weren’t doing their school work at home. They were working on a science project while in their science class at Kickemuit Middle School, each using one of 25 new iPads bought through a Bristol Warren Education Foundation (BWEF) grant last summer.

“I wanted to heighten their technology capabilities, and use less paper,” said their teacher Mary Arsenault. “About this time last year, I would have used about 5,000 sheets of paper. With the iPads, I’ve used about 400 sheets of paper.”

Last spring, Ms. Arsenault applied for, and was awarded, a BWEF grant for $13,634 to supply in-class iPads for her science classes.

“This is the largest single grant that BWEF has ever funded,” according to Cheryl Burns, BWEF board vice chairperson.

“Ms. Arsenault presented a comprehensive plan for integrating this innovative technology into her classroom. It significantly expands access to opportunities for these students and BWEF is thrilled to support that,” said Ms. Burns.The iPads are shared among her sixth-grade classes, and are not brought home.

“Taking notes is much easier (on the iPad), because my hand gets tired writing a lot,” said Makayla’s classmate Olivia Pimental.

“Kids are more interested in technology, and this also helps us focus more,” Ava Gramolini chimed in.

Through a free online program called Edmodo, Ms. Arsenault can connect with her students on a more in-depth level than before. Students can continue their classroom discussions online while at home, and download learning apps relative to those discussions. Ms. Arsenault can also monitor their progress by polling the students to measure their subject understanding.

ipads-teacher“It’s easier to find out which kids aren’t grasping the subject and helps determine where I need to modify our discussions,” she said.

Each team in Makayla’s class is currently preparing a presentation on rock cycles. A decade earlier, Ms. Arsenault said, students would be presenting the information with poster boards.

Now, with the iMovie app she downloaded for her class, Ms. Arsenault’s students can create a movie to explain rock cycles.

“It adds a new dimension of learning for them to explore,” she said. The students can also use Keynote, a power point app, for their presentations.

“This is much better because I’d lose all my papers,” Olivia said. “And it’s more fun.”

Not all of her students were tech-savvy at the start of the school year. They had to learn the dynamics of the iPad, and how to apply that technology to the curriculum.

Once they figured out how to use it, learning was much easier.

“I was afraid at first, because I’ve never used an iPad,” Katie said.

While the majority of her students have computer and internet access at home, about 20 out of 85 do not, Ms. Arsenault said.

“I was shocked, but I understand because it’s not easy or inexpensive,” she said.

Cox recently announced its Connect2Compete program, offering low-income families internet access at home for about $10 a month. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch at school generally qualify.

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