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Traver maintains its focus on technology


School expands laptop availability, brings in iPads for younger students



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Bev Boughton, Traver's librarian/media specialist, teaches first grader Tim Giles how to open one of the apps in an iPad.

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October 05, 2011 | 08:31 AM
LINN — School isn't what it used to be.

Twenty-five years ago, teachers stood in front of a roomful of children armed primarily with their abilities to speak engagingly about their subjects. Today, they have things like laptops, iPads and SMART boards to help ease the burden of keeping children attentive and interested.

"The days when the kids all just sit in a room and the teacher just talks are gone," said Craig Collins, principal at Traver School.

Technology is as big a push in Traver as it is in nearly every school these days, but in some respects the rural Linn Township school progressed earlier than some of its peers.

Three years ago, the school provided laptops to every seventh- and eighth-grader. Last year, there were laptops for Traver's sixth- through eighth-grade classes. This year, a total of 43 laptops are provided to fifth- through eighth-graders.

Collins said this year, Traver is providing 14 iPads to six teachers of 4- and 5-year-old kindergarten classes as well as first- through fourth-grades.

He said some teachers began using iPads during certain classroom exercises this spring, but Traver was able to obtain more of them — and, soon, will receive a cart it ordered which can recharge and install software apps on all iPads simultaneously — for the start of the 2011-12 year.

Collins said the plan is to provide iPads which remain at school for the younger students and laptops for the older students.

"This kind of thing takes a certain amount of responsibility," he said. "You're not going to hand a $1,000 laptop over to a first-grader. Ö But we're always looking for ways to get technology into the lower grades."

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For this, the iPad was an attractive option for Traver.

Collins said an iPad costs about $400 to $500 each — and the school received grants to offset the cost of them as well. On top of that, he saw two advantages.

"We can offer more differentiated instruction," he said. "Also, children at a younger age now are more technologically savvy."

Michelle Niemoth, fourth-grade teacher and reading specialist, said she has used the iPad with first- and second-graders for reading and other activities.

"We did a program called 'Stack the States,' It's a game for them to learn different facts about states," she said.

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Niemoth said she likes it because it brings the technology to the primary-aged students, which they seem to respond to positively.

"It's better because the kids interact more with it," she said.

Niemoth said the iPads will be used extensively in an upcoming event in which the entire day will be devoted to American social studies. With the iPads, different apps can be used to enhance the learning in any given subject.

She sees it as more than just a technological trend.

"It's what these kids are growing up with now and what they will need to know in the future," Niemoth said.

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Boards still play a vital role

Despite blackboards going the way of the video cassette or the 8-track, there still is a board in front of the class which in a way bears similarities to an iPad.

Earlier this year, Traver installed two Promethean boards in classrooms. Also, the school has three SMART boards.

Essentially, one can interface with both the way they would an iPad — only instead of touching the screen on the iPad, he or she can touch the board in front of the classroom.

Collins said the Promethean boards will be what Traver uses more of in the future because the company tailors them to the education field.

But no matter what product they choose, the technology yields its own benefits.

"When we were introduced to the SMART boards, the Promethean boards, we saw a dramatic increase in attentiveness and participation (from) the kids, as well as a commensurate decrease in discipline issues," Collins said. "They weren't bored. They were actively involved."

He said his perspective on why it's important to provide the most advanced technology the school can acquire to its students isn't from the standpoint of teaching children how to use it.

These are learning tools.

"They already know how to use this stuff," Collins said. "We get them so they can use the iPads to further enhance their learning. It opens up the whole realm of resources that's out there."

He's talking about the Web.

"It just makes for better education," Collins said. "With this kind of stuff, we're not isolated anymore."

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