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Imagination's the limit



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TRAVER SEVENTH-GRADER Josh Nordenson is using an iPad to complete an assignment on Brazil.

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March 19, 2013 | 05:20 PM
LINN — They're making their own music, movies and products.

They're even travel agents, booking European vacations for different clients.

Well, the clients don't really exist.

And technically speaking, these Traver School students aren't travel agents.

But the trips, the music, the movies and the products are the outcome of different projects Traver School students completed using iPads the school distributed in late December 2012.

It's all to achieve a simple, vital goal — teaching children to create content.

"I think, nowadays, our job isn't more about helping kids learn information," said Allyssa Andersen, Traver's technology coordinator. "It's about helping kids use information."

The iPads help teachers bring the world to their students, she said.

"We got our first batch of iPads around spring of 2011," Andersen said. "We got a handful of iPads to distribute to the younger grades, to get some technology in their hands."

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Although this is the first year Traver has made iPads available to students, fifth- through eighth-graders had access to laptops four years ago.

This year, Traver bought 45 iPads.

Principal Craig Collins said the total cost was about $22,100.

"An iPad cost about half of what it costs to purchase a MacBook," Collins said.

Cost-savings aside, Andersen said they had some "traveling" iPads available to students.

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They could check them out, she said.

After last Christmas, the new iPads were distributed.

"I wanted to make sure we could filter objectionable content," she said.

As Andersen explained how iPads are great because they're app-based and students are accustomed to tablet tech because it's how their smartphones operate, she was routinely interrupted by her students.

On occasion, a line of them formed near the door of her classroom.

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One at a time, Andersen's students would hand them her iPads.

Why?

"Our big presentation is tomorrow," she said.

It's for the travel project. Andersen said students had to design vacations for four different types of clients — a family of four, a retired couple, honeymooners and college-aged backpackers.

The students needed to finish their travel agency projects on laptops because the iPads didn't have the spreadsheet software they needed, Andersen said.

So, students uploaded the finished presentations onto a cloud — off-site storage accessible via the Internet, sometimes referred to as a "virtual server" — then download it onto their iPads.

Although she said students are in a transitional phase with learning how to use these tablets, it's easy to learn and not all that different from their own experiences with technology outside of school.

"I find tablet technology, really, is kind of a medium between the laptops (and) what they already own, their gaming systems and their smartphones," Andersen said.

Only rather than enable students to communicate or be entertained, the iPads provide them with another window of opportunity — to create. "With technology, the only limit is your imagination," Andersen said.

No shortage of ideas

She said kids love creating their own content, whether it's on iPads or laptops.

And behind all the projects she has given students, it appears she has been able to impart some vital lessons.

For example, sixth-graders had to create a presentation based on two of their favorite things.

Andersen said then, they used Animoto to turn that presentation into a music video.

Then, she said, that video was refined in iMovie.

Through a project involving what students love, they were able to learn the technical skills which likely will carry them through the rest of their educational careers and beyond.

"They created the content on their own," she said. "I didn't have to assign it to them. They'll come up to me and go, 'Hey, I made this song on Garageband.' That's one of the other goals for having all this technology. It's not just about giving (students) something to do. It's having them create their own content in their own style."

But Andersen gave a directive of sorts for one recent seventh-grade project.

She said she had them create a video based on the theme "what's worth fighting for?"

These videos were part of a "film festival" segment during the school's first art show Feb. 28.

"They were the writers, directors, editors and producers of their own videos," Andersen said.

Currently, eighth-graders are involved in a more complex-sounding project.

They're making their own products, she said.

"They're basically taking a product and starting from the ground up," Andersen said.

Not exactly a new idea, as economics classes have been tasking students with this for decades, but the twist here is students are designing and building the prototype, making commercials for it and using social media to sell it.

She said it seems like children enjoy the projects and the technology.

And there's no question Andersen loves what she does.

This is her first year as the school's technology coordinator.

"I think, for me, the best part of it is, being a teacher, you enjoy learning new things," she said. "Because there's something new every second in technology. I can share that with the kids. It's not stagnant, that's for sure."

Because, as she said earlier, with technology, the only limit is your imagination.

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