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Easton School Officials Impressed with IPad Pilot Program

School Officials heard from teachers who have been using ipads in the classroom as part of a pilot program.

When the Easton School Committee saw what ipads could do for Easton students last week, they were impressed.

Or, as school committee member Caroline O'Neill put it, she was "blown away."

"The way that you have each found your own path in using these wonderful tools with the kids really blows me away," she said. "Everyone was really different but equally creative and equally imaginative. It was just wonderful."

Teachers from Easton's Technology Advisory Group, or "TAG", presented to the school committee last Thursday what they have done in the first half of the year as part of the ipad pilot program. Presenters included teachers from the high school, middle school and elementary school levels, as well as specialists and therapists from various levels.

A common theme presented by each educator was that students were able to learn - and express what they had learned - in different, more intuitive ways using the ipad.

"These tools allow us to get at the knowledge that the kids already have," School Committee Chair Jane Martin said. "For me, that’s the key to all of this.

"That, to me, is opening up so many doors because of the nature of the student population. That was the piece that I found really impactful and I’m sure our students do at well."

"..These are not nice to have things anymore," Martin continued. "These are must-have things to make sure our environment is up to date."

Foundation for Excellence in Education in Easton (FEEE) chair Ed Sharkansky, who was present at the meeting, said his organization in the teachers in the advisory group needed to educate the public.

FEEE raises money for technology in Easton schools.

"I think that we are not only going to have to focus on not just raising dollars but on raising knowledge so we can educate more efficiently," Sharkansky said.

The uses for the ipad during the pilot program varied at different grade levels.

Students at Oliver Ames used the ipad to develop a rap song in Algebra II.

At the two students were able to better analyze a story in English class by using a built-in dictionary and internal notes made by the teacher.

A student with autism was able to create a graphic organizer using the ipad's easy-to-use tools.

"It’s really interesting to see how intuitive the technology is for students these days," Easton Middle School English teacher Jessica Garbowski said.

Meagan Williams, a 4th grade teacher at the Olmsted School, put her ipad to use in a variety of ways in her classroom.

In one instance, a student was allergic to certain science materials.

"This student can’t be around materials we're using in science," Williams said. "We came up with the solution of having her use face-time. She is able to fully participate, ask questions, and answer questions."

Speech Language Pathologist Ruth Bluestone touted the ipad's ability to help students with disabilities.

Through various mediums, it allows students who might otherwise struggle learning by simple pen-to-paper methods.

"When the ipad came I realized we finally had a device that could level the playing field for student with learning disabilities and any disability," she said.

Dinelle Eaton, a special education teacher at Parkview, agreed with Bluestone, using an example of a student who struggles with writing.

"She has difficulty with her working memory," Eaton said. "It’s very hard for her to organize her thoughts and get them down on paper and keep them organized when she’s making that transition. She comes up with fabulous ideas and she has such trouble."

Using the ipad, Eaton's student is able to record her thoughts and answers as they come to her and organize them in an efficient way.

"The key word here is independence," Bluestone said. "Students are able to be independent and harness things that they’re interested in."

Assistant Superintendent Cathy MacLeod said she hopes the pilot program is helpful when making further decisions about technology. Learning how ipads can be helpful is the first step in the planning process.

"The reason for that group is to be able to move forward in our district in a planful way," she said. "We are all very excited about the introduction of the technology."

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