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Column: iPads revolutionizing learning in District 518

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opinion Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

By SCOTT BURNS, District 518

WORTHINGTON — In 2013, after a year of intensive study, District 518 purchased iPads for students at Worthington Middle School and iPad Minis for students at Prairie Elementary. But this is not about the device. It’s about the learning students will do using their devices.

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Today’s graduates will have to know and do many different things. Three of the most important things that they will need to be able to do is cultivate an ability to learn so they can change with the times, problem-solve, and be able to collaborate with others. Here are just a few of the ways that students are using their devices to increase their engagement in the learning process.

Schoology is the learning management system that the district is using. Teachers are using Schoology to put course content online.

Assignments, projects, tests, resources and educational videos are placed there for students in the course. They have access to them at whatever time is convenient for them. A student can download, complete and turn in an assignment all without touching a sheet of paper. If they are stuck on an assignment after school, they can email their teacher, and chances are good that they will get the help they need sometime that day.

Another great way using the iPads will benefit students is through the use of educational videos. It is very easy for teachers to create and post how-to videos from their classes. Tools such as Educreations, iMovie, Prezi, Powerpoint and screencast software are very user-friendly, and a teacher can master them in a short amount of time. This allows the student to take the expert home with them. They can review the lesson and pause it as often as they need to. This should be a great help to parents and students because in many cases the parent can enjoy learning with their child. Furthermore, teachers that blend their class ask students to watch lessons at home so they can increase the one-to-one work time they have with students in the classroom.

One final way the iPads are being used in a substantive way is as part of the writing process. Learning is a profoundly social process. By using tools such as Kid Blogs, teachers are able to engage students in both the creative writing process and in responding to literature by reading and commenting on the written work of others. Google also has some great features that teachers can use to help students develop their language skills. A Google Doc can be given to individual students, or it can be assigned to a small team of students. The revolutionary feature here is that a teacher can be a part of the student writing process as the students are writing. The teacher doesn’t have to wait until a draft is turned in to see how things are going. There is no delay in providing feedback. The teacher can examine the writing as it is being crafted and provide real-time suggestions and feedback.

These are exciting times to be a student in District 518. It is also an inspiring time to be a teacher in the era of digital learning.

Scott Burns is an intervention teacher at Worthington Middle School.

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