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iPads proving big hit

Photo by Dana Pavek Second-grade student Payton Rondesvedt, left, reads while fellow classmate Kylee Collins records his voice on an iPad. The app helps improve students' reading fluency.

Today's students have grown up immersed in technology. From their cell phones to computers to iPods, these are the ways they interact with the world.

At Wadena-Deer Creek Schools, teachers and students are using technology to enhance their learning.

To help improve student reading fluency, second-grade students in Kali Matthiesen's class are practicing their reading skills with an iPad. Students practice reading with a classmate using an app on the iPad. After the recording, they replay the reading and listen for accuracy. Students have made great gains and feel good about their reading, said Matthiesen.

Matthiesen uses the iPad every day for all subjects in her classroom.

"I have downloaded books at their reading level and there are some great apps for phonics, spelling and grammar practice. Some apps even keep track of their progress," said Matthiesen. "We also use apps for math fact practice. Our math curriculum, Everyday Math, has their own apps as well. I also give the students some free choice time to try out their favorite apps during breakfast and snack time. I personally use it in school for testing on AimsWeb."

How have the students responded to the iPad? When Matthiesen askede the class who would like to use the iPad, 20 arms immediately shot up with enthusiasm.

"They are constantly asking for a turn," said Matthiesen, who is using her personal iPad so her students are exposed to the technology. "It's hard only having one in the room! It would be nice to have a set of four to six so I could use it for small groups or centers."

The students learn to navigate the iPads quickly. Matthiesen usually shows one or two students what to do, and then they become the teacher for the next student in line.

The iPad is a gorgeous, full-screen experience full of interactive diagrams, photos and videos. No longer limited to static pictures to illustrate the text, now students can dive into a colorful image with interactive captions, rotate a 3D object, or have the answer spring to life in a chapter review. They can flip through a book by simply sliding a finger along the bottom of the screen. Highlighting text, taking notes, searching for content, and finding definitions in the glossary are just as easy.

That's one of the reasons WDC Elementary special education teacher Connie Mosher loves incorporating the iPad into her lessons for her fifth- and sixth-grade students. It's been an effective learning tool.

For example, Mosher had student who struggled with learning the states and capitals. She found an app that featured quiz modes and beautiful interactive graphics.

"This app was just amazing. It helped this student learn and memorize the states and capitals," said Mosher. "I am very thankful to have the iPad. It is really enforcing solid learning for my students. Plus, they are exploring and they are learning, and that's what I love - that they are learning."

WDC special education teachers and speech-language specialists piloted and currently use the iPad in their classrooms. They are using it for assessments, intervention and preparation for MCA testing. Teachers have attended training specific to iPad education.

"Given the opportunity to expand current curriculum, and provide digital opportunity for all students, WDC is expanding iPad use to all students, grades 5-12 next year," said Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom, who credits the WDC School Board for supporting this project. "The iPad will be used as a high-performance textbook and resource learning tool for students and faculty."

Second-graders Payton Rondesvedt, 8, and Kylee Collins, 7, were delighted to be chosen to practice on the iPad. Working side-by-side, Rondesvedt read from his book, "The Lightning Thief," by Rick Riordan, as Collins held and watched the iPad record his reading fluency. Both students maneuvered the iPad with ease and were totally engaged.

It's a wonderful way, said Matthiesen, to take advantage of what an iPad can offer students and create opportunities for shared learning.