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ISD 518 offers new learning options

WORTHINGTON — Students in Worthington’s 518 school district will be welcomed back to class with a range of technology at their fingertips to aid in their learning experience. The second phase of the district’s technology initiative offers the continuation of iPads in third through eighth grades and tablets for high school students. 

Superintendent John Landgaard says students are becoming digital learners. This shift in learning styles has led to a nationwide focus on technology in schools. While each classroom in the district is outfitted with smartboards and projectors, the hope is to put tools into the hands of the students. Last year the district began the first phase of its technology plan by offering iPads to third- through eighth-grade students.

According to studies conducted by the International Society for Technology in Education and Consortium for School Networking, students are improving in reading, writing and math thanks to technology. Further, technology is improving school efficiency, productivity and decision-making while allowing teachers to meet professional requirements.

In District 518, the introduction of iPads in the elementary and middle school levels has had an overall positive effect. This year, the district will expand by offering tablets in the high school. The high school will also replace teachers’ desktop computers with laptops. The change will allow teachers who travel between multiple classrooms to more easily bring their information with them.

“Now the teacher can come in with their laptop at a docking station, put their PowerPoint or their educational program up on the smart boards and teach their lesson,” Landgaard explained.

The district’s increased focus on technology has had many positive results but also a handful of negative ones.

“There’s good and there’s bad with it. There’s challenges,” Landgaard explained. “Kids like to play games on them. ... We’ve had to limit some of that. We’ve had a learning curve with our implementation of what we allow kids — and what we don’t allow them — to do.

“The challenges to adopting new technology are not limited to just the students,” he continued. “Teachers have had to adapt to the changes as well.

“With educators, they all have a different comfort level with technology, so they are having to learn how to use that as a learning tool for kids in the classroom.”

To aid teachers in embracing the new tools the district offers, each has received training. In addition, a full-time technology integrationist position was created to offer ongoing help to staff.

Next year, the district aims to expand iPads to kindergarten, first and school grades. A few of the district’s 21 computer labs will be reduced once all children in the district receive an iPad or tablet. Landgaard said those classrooms may then be used for other classes.

Robin Baumgarn

Robin Baumgarn is a new reporter for the Daily Globe covering the Education and Northwest Iowa beats. Prior to coming to the Globe, she worked for the Ocheyedan Press-Melvin News, a weekly Iowa paper for three years. She is a 2012 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College and lives in Northwest Iowa with her husband Ryan and three pets, Fidget, Missy and Samwise.

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