Pic Collage, Edpuzzle, Educreations, Adobe Voice, Stage Pro, Elements 4D, Quizlet, Socrative, Quiver, Swivl, Plickers, and SeeSaw.
These words may be “Greek” or “Geek” to some people, but to educators in Northside School District they are tools in an ever-growing digital toolbox designed to enhance individualized student learning consistent with “Post PC Era” trends.
By mid-September 2016, all NISD teachers, counselors, librarians, administrators and other professional support employees will be issued an iPad to serve as a creative tool to add to their established curriculum thanks to money earmarked for technology.
“iPads don’t take the place of a good teacher,” says Tracy Wernli, principal of Hector Garcia Middle School. “Teachers are still the master of their content area, but the iPads are a tool to access the curriculum in a variety of ways.”
“Students are very comfortable and adept at using mobile devices,” says Lucy Podmore, librarian at Hector Garcia Middle School and Texas Computer Education Association Library Media Specialist of the Year. “Teachers need to be as familiar with them as their students are and understand how they can be utilized properly in the classroom setting.”
Hector Garcia Middle School is one of six schools in NISD that served as pilot schools for the iPad teacher initiative. The other schools are Helotes and Timberwilde elementary schools, Neff and Connally middle schools; and O’Connor High School.
“The iPad is a completely portable learning tool that allows the teacher to reach beyond their classroom,” says Dr. Brian T. Woods, superintendent. “We are very excited to be able to provide our teaching staff this kind of 21st century teaching device to help engage every student at the level where they are able to learn, when they are ready to learn.”
Prior to receiving their iPads, Hector Garcia Middle School established a campus technology committee with one person from every department. Committee members were given an iPad to experiment and become comfortable for one year prior to the campus receiving their iPads. The committee members became mentors to employees in their area. In addition to a staff retreat, the school has provided ongoing training through monthly “App-ie Hours” and Twitter Chats.
“Training is the key,” says Wernli. “It is definitely a mind shift.”
One Hector Garcia Middle School teacher who had no trouble finding ways to utilize the new tool was a P.E. coach who discovered he could videotape his students on the football field, and replay to show them what they were doing right or where they needed improvement.
Teachers have also discovered the ease in doing formative assessments, demonstrating and collaboratively editing poetry in class, and for measuring and documenting science experiments. With apps aplenty (more than 80,000 education apps designed especially for the iPad) teachers will have no problem finding an app that best enhances their lesson plans.
Among the staff who piloted the iPad initiative this year are (from l-r) Librarian Lucy Podmore and Principal Tracy Wernli. More than 7,800 iPads will be distributed to NISD professional campus staff in the fall.