HomeMoorestown NewsMoorestown pilot program is using technology to enhance classroom learning

Moorestown pilot program is using technology to enhance classroom learning

Many of us already have an iPad sitting at home. They’ve become so ubiquitous that you’ve surely seen a parent hand their toddler the device on a plane or while out to dinner to amuse themselves. But what happens when you give a young person an iPad and ask them to use it as a tool and not a toy?

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This was the question Moorestown Township Public Schools grappled with during the 2018-2019 school year. A handful of first grade teachers were asked to be part of an Apple iPad pilot project wherein they incorporated the technology in a meaningful way into the classroom. The teachers shared the results of the pilot at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

Mark Ambrosino, a computer teacher at George C. Baker and Mary E. Roberts Elementary Schools, said the pilot program kicked off in October 2018 and ran through the very last day of school. Each of the first grade teachers involved in the program were provided enough iPads for all children in the classroom to have their own device. 

The program’s emphasis was not on utilizing apps, but rather, integrating the iPad as a tool to enhance classroom learning. Each teacher was asked to create an action plan through which they were asked to determine the impact the devices had on instruction.

At Baker, first-grade teacher Hannah Vaksman’s action plan focused on student participation. Specifically, Vaksman focused her research on one of her students who was high-achieving academically but reticent to participate in the classroom. 

Vaksman had her students submitting assignments to an app called “Seesaw,” which allows students to like and comment on other students’ work. Vaksman said all comments were monitored and approved by her before posting. She said through the app, she found the shy student who wouldn’t raise her hand during normal instruction was commenting and engaging with her peers. The interactions even led to continued face-to-face interaction. 

“What I found throughout using the technology was that her voice came through,” Vaksman said. 

Christina Hargrove, a first-grade teacher at South Valley Elementary School, said her action plan focused on using the iPads to get her students more engaged in math curriculum. She said prior to integrating the iPads, she was finding that her students lacked the perseverance when it came to tackling higher level thinking math problems. 

“I found that my students just quickly gave up; they weren’t engaged with it,” Hargrove said. “They didn’t really know how to tackle it.” 

Using the same Seesaw app, Hargrove asked her students to post how they worked out a math problem for the rest of the class to see. She said having an audience encouraged her students to get engaged with the work and ended up motivating the students because they knew their peers were going to see their efforts. 

Hargrove said the students were quick to get engaged liking and commenting on other students’ posts. She said at a certain point, students were asking for more of these problems whereas in the past, there had been a palpable sense of dread. 

Additionally, on her end, she was able to sit down and look at all of her students’ thinking from that class period. 

“I just got to understand them as mathematical thinkers so much better, and it was so rewarding,” Hargrove said.

Finally, Rosemary Anderson, a first-grade teacher at Roberts, used the iPads for a year-long kindness project. Anderson tasked her class with tackling the question: “If you could change the world, how would you do it?” Their overwhelming answer was by spreading more kindness.

So, the class set out to spread more kindness throughout Roberts. They utilized the iPads to survey their fellow students at lunch time and ask them where they felt the school needed more kindness. The most prevalent answer was recess, so the students took that information and typed up responses on the iPads about how they could spread more kindness at recess.

These typed responses were turned into speeches that the students performed. From there, students researched kindness posters on the iPads and found examples to recreate and hang throughout the school. By the year’s end, the students hung more than 300 kindness posters throughout the school. 

“They cared so much about it,” Anderson said. “The pieces of technology in front of them was exactly a tool, and they never looked at it as a game.”

Carol Butler, director of curriculum and instruction, said this year they’re expanding the pilot program at the first- and second-grade level and running pilot programs at the Upper Elementary School and William Allen Middle School as well.

The next meeting of the Moorestown Township Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in William Allen Middle School. 

 

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