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April 22, 2014 | 10:49 AM
LINN — With iPads in hand, Reek School students have the world at their fingertips.

Second-graders made their own books about Australia.

Third-graders produced video lessons about Russia. Fourth-graders are researching famous people from the Southwest.

One thing all three projects have in common is they were primarily completed on the iPad, which some classes started using regularly in January.

Another thing is that teachers and students are learning from each other.

“I thought I had a good understanding of this app, then the kids take it another step further,” said second-grade teacher Tammy Murphy.

Reek Principal Samantha Polek said every teacher at her school is using iPads, which they started implementing three years ago.

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Then, after voters approved a $2.8 million referendum on Nov. 6, 2012, about $100,000 was allocated for technological upgrades.

Currently, there are 14 iPads being used in classes.

Second-, fourth- and fifth-grades are using them the most right now, said Polek.

The goal is to make them available in every class

“Having iPads for all students to use daily is a wonderful opportunity, especially for students who do not have the use of technology at home,” said fourth-grade teacher Nancy Castelein.

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Teachers believe it could also be a leap forward, not only in the school’s technological capabilities, but in improving how children learn.

“I use the iPads quite a bit,” said Kyle Getz, sixth- through eighth-grade social studies teacher and Reek’s technology coordinator. “I notice a much higher level of engagement in students.”

During a recent unit on the Progressive Era, Getz used an app to enhance his lesson on yellow journalism.

“He had Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle,’ and here I come into the class and the kids are looking at a primary source. … It was just a great example of learning, and we didn’t have to buy anything to look at that source,” Polek said.

Not only that, but it appears that once students with iPads in their hands are exposed to a topic, they take the reins.

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“After I show them how to use an app, they do it on their own,” said third-grade teacher Katie Steadman.

Murphy, Getz, Steadman and Castelein said they are frequently learning from their students as they’re teaching them.

“They did something with an app the other day that I didn’t know it could do,” he said. “They designed things and they put animations into their designs.”

Castelein noted a difference in focus between herself and her students.

“It’s an exciting situation to have happening,” Castelein said.

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“Often, when we are exploring a new app, students will demonstrate to the class the various features that they have found. We balance each other out. They are usually more tuned into the various features of the app, and I am more interested in the content or information the app presents.”

Nevertheless, having iPads in class seems to have opened the idea floodgates for students and teachers alike.

“Currently, we are using FaceTime to talk to people in other countries and within the United States, so I would like to take this one step further next year,” said Murphy.

“I am hoping to find a classroom in another state or country that would be willing to be iPad pals with my class. This would be a lot like pen pals, but instead of writing to each other, the students would use FaceTime to communicate with each other and to learn about their cultures.”

Murphy said they have talked to people in Michigan, Missouri, Florida and Japan.

“My class has also used Skype and FaceTime to talk with a student who recently moved to New Zealand, as well as with a student who was on vacation in Florida,” Steadman said. “An aunt of one of my students lives in Washington, D.C., and works for the state department. (She) allowed us to Skype with her while at work one day.”

Castelein said she has been focusing on learning to use iPads for tutorials.

Her goal is to have students use iPads to facilitate their own learning.

“I am not sure of any new things I want to do with my iPads,” said Steadman. “Possibly a voice-to-text app, so my students can write stories much faster.”

“There’s so much you can do and I feel we’ve only started to scratch the surface,” said Getz.

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