This fall, Ashley Elementary became the first DPS school to put an iPad in the hands of every one of its students from kindergarten through 5th grade, thanks to a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. Incorporating technology into day-to-day classwork is part of the plan as Ashley Elementary gets its fresh start as an innovation school (see Ashley turnaround story). The $250,000 award provided 350 iPads and a software program that will be used in the school’s literacy program, giving students access to a digital library accessible from school and home.
A key purpose of the iPads is to provide personalized assessment. With the data obtained through the iPad programs, teachers can identify specific skill gaps children may have, down to a “miniscule” level, and can research and evaluate an appropriate app and send it to that child’s iPad. “Instruction is incredibly tailored for that student so it’s time-saving for the teacher and more effective in getting the child what they need more quickly,” says Principal Zachary Rahn.Before students can take the iPads home, they will take part in a 3-week course covering responsibility, online safety and effective educational use of their iPad.
Deirdre Greenemeier is more concerned about damage to her kindergartener Gabriel’s iPad than Internet safety. As a longtime volunteer at the school, she says, “I know how important safety is to the staff so I’m not really worried about any Internet issues.” Greenemeier says her rules will be that Gabriel can only use it at the kitchen table and only for schoolwork.
Rahn says the school will have complete control over the iPads including what is downloaded and viewed. The school can also lock an iPad and track it if it gets lost. The iPads will be used in all facets of the students’ education including uploading their artwork into their own digital portfolios and monitoring their progress in P.E.
Rahn believes incorporating technology into the classroom from a young age is critical in preparing the students for the future but adds, “Technology isn’t the centerpiece of what we are—it’s a component to help us achieve our goal of making sure every kid gets an education.”