First grade teacher Paula Finch's students get excited when they know they're going to use the iPads.
"The iPad gives them a different way to work together and create a product where they're using it as a tool, just like any other tool in their toolbox,” said Finch. “It could be crayons or an iPad."
Finch has 10 tablets in her classroom, although most kindergarten through second grade classes in the Vestal School District only have five.
"What they do is during their center time, whether it has to do with math, literacy, science or social studies, they have students rotating through centers using different applications on the iPad,” said coordinator of instruction Dodie Ainslie.
"With a very full curriculum, it's very difficult to fit in technology and it's an easy thing to push away and say 'I have to do this’ or ‘I'm already really full in my day.' But having the iPads right in the classroom as a tool; it makes it very easy to integrate it. It's not one more thing to teach, it's another way to teach what they already need to know,” said Finch.
Finch is a tech liason specialist and helps educate other teachers on the technology. One of the advantages in using tablets is that kids can actually record their voice as they're solving math problems, so that way the teacher knows their thought process, not just the end result. Vestal is being thoughtful on its investments in technology.
"I think that the key is to really look at our learning objectives and to see where we want students to use technology, not to just be a device, but to enhance learning,” said Dodie.
That may mean using different types of technology for different grades. Perhaps tablets for very young students while Chromebooks could be used for third through fifth graders, although ultimately that depends on what the district deems best.
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