Thursday, December 5, 2013
BY SUSAN MCMILLAN Staff Writer
(Continued from page 1)
Maranacook staff and students said their biggest issue has been acclimating to the iPads, particularly the touchscreens and the range of apps available.
There have been technical problems, too. Before an upgrade a few weeks into school, the iPads overtaxed and slowed down Maranacook's wireless netowrks because most of the content and programs students use are accessed via the Internet instead of being stored on the iPads.
One of the most common concerns with the iPads was typing, which is done on the touchscreen instead of a physical keyboard.
The Maine Learning Technology Initiative provided a small number of keyboards. At Maranacook, there are a few in each classroom for students to check out, and some parents also bought keyboards for their children.
Schools with longer experience using iPads advised RSU 38 not to buy keyboards, said Jan Kolenda, the district technology director.
"The kids won't use them. They adapt," Kolenda said the advice was. "Almost all the kids say that's not a problem. They're used to smaller devices, like a phone."
MacGregor said the transition to iPads has been fairly easy for Maranacook middle school, where every student and teacher has used an Apple device for a decade.
Mararanacook high school students, however, used Linux-based laptops for only three years before this. Technology integration coordinator Nate Savage said only a small fraction of the high school's teachers are using the iPads to somewhere near their full potential, meaning for more than Web searches and writing papers.
Savage said he's trying to make teachers more comfortable and familiar with the iPads by having them observe each other using the devices in class and through show-and-tell at staff meetings.
"The big thing is that you have to have that mentality that Kelly (Frey) had. They have to be open to suggestions," Savage said. "You might run into some stumbling blocks along the way, but it's OK. We're still moving forward."
Frey has embraced the use of iPads more enthusiastically than almost any teacher at Maranacook. She attended five days of training at Foxcroft Academy and seeks recommendations from other teachers.
French teacher John Hirsch, for example, introduced Frey to Memrise, an app her students use to study Spanish vocabulary. Frey has recorded herself saying the vocabulary words so students can hear the correct pronunciation.
Frey said her biggest challenge with the iPads is finding the time to research and play around with new apps she might want to use.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," she said.
Searway, a freshman from Readfield, said she appreciates how lightweight the iPad is and the fact that the battery lasts 10 hours, allowing her to leave her charger at home. She likes being able to tap on a word in a text to bring up the definition.
Marilyn Branagan, a sophomore from Wayne, said eBackpack, a program for assigning and turning in homework, is helpful for students who might forget to write down an assignment or is prone to losing papers.
Both said typing on the virtual keyboard was a little difficult at first, but now they're used to it, and they can even switch to a Spanish keyboard that includes accents and special characters.
Although games and the Internet are always at hand, Searway said most of the educational apps her teachers use are so engaging that students don't get distracted.
At the middle school, students in Aimee Reiter's class about conservation are taking part in the grant-funded Lunder New Naturalists program with the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and several other schools.
So far they've used their iPads to research Teddy Roosevelt's involvement in conservation efforts and contribute their findings to a timeline. They created slideshows about conservation issues in an app called Keynote and added sound and effects through the video-editing app iMovie.
Chrisana Zirtidis, a seventh grader from Manchester, said shooting and editing video and photos is much more difficult on a laptop than an iPad.
Reiter said her students took to the technology right away and have become better troubleshooters than most of the adults in the school.
"Not every time we use something, whether technology or pen and paper, does everything run smoothly," she said. "I think it's great to have these kids on the cutting edge."
Susan McMillan -- 621-5645